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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
El Niño: The Weak, Getting Weaker
Select another El Niño/La Niña Watch image   

February 22, 2005

Recent sea-level height data from the U.S./France Jason altimetric satellite during a
10-day cycle ending, show that the central equatorial Pacific continues
to exhibit an area of higher-than-normal sea surface heights (warmer-than-normal sea
surface temperatures), centered at 180 degrees West, the International Dateline. This
feature contrasts with lower than normal sea levels, cooler ocean waters, in the
eastern equatorial Pacific. This change indicates the weak El Niño is dissipating,
tending towards neutral conditions. Scientists will continue to monitor the Pacific
closely for further signs of either El Niño or La Niña development.

The image shows a red area in the central equatorial Pacific that is about 10
centimeters (4 inches) above normal. These red sea surface heights equate to
sea surface temperature departures greater than one degree Celsius (two degrees

These images show sea surface height anomalies with the seasonal cycle (the effects
of summer, fall, winter, and spring) removed. The differences between what we see
and what is normal for different times and regions are called anomalies, or residuals.
When oceanographers and climatologists view these "anomalies" they can identify
unusual patterns and can tell us how heat is being stored in the ocean to influence
future planetary climate events. Each image is a 10-day average of data, ending on
the date indicated.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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