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El Niño Approaches
July 01, 2009


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Using Jason-2 altimetry data, NASA scientists are closely monitoring the recent Pacific El Niño warming. Since El Niño has been quiet since the historic 1997-1998 event, global interest is sky high. Altimetry data are important tools for monitoring the movement of the warm El Niño waters and the cool waters of La Niña. Jason-2 data are also being used operationally to create the 2009-2010 climate forecasts. For many countries, these climate forecasts are crucial to help them plan for flooding and drought, develop agricultural strategies, and allocate water and energy resources.

The image on the left from June 1997 shows that the large El Niño that developed later that year was preceded by an already significant warm water area in the eastern Pacific Ocean.  The June 2009 El Niño (right) indeed has a warm region in the eastern Pacific, but it  is not expected to develop into the dramatic phenomenon of 1997.
The image on the left from June 1997 shows that the large El Niño that developed later that year was preceded by an already significant warm water area in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The June 2009 El Niño (right) indeed has a warm region in the eastern Pacific, but it is not expected to develop into the dramatic phenomenon of 1997.
According the official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will continue to develop and are expected to last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-2010.

During June 2009, conditions across the equatorial Pacific Ocean transitioned from largely neutral to El Niño conditions. An area of warm water continued to increase along a narrow band in the eastern equatorial Pacific. Subsurface waters also increased as the depth of this warm water continued to deepen. Consistent with the oceanic evolution of El Niño conditions, equatorial trade winds were weaker-than-average across much of the Pacific basin, and convection of cooler ocean water became increasingly suppressed over Indonesia. These ocean and atmosphere conditions are indicative of the development of an El Niño event.

View the official NOAA announcement.

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