The data from the TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason missions helps us study and understand the complex interactions between the oceans and the atmosphere that affect global weather and climate events. El Niño is one well-known example of this interaction.
"El Niño" refers to a climate event in the Pacific Ocean where the trade winds weaken and warm, nutrient-poor ocean water builds up in the eastern Pacific Ocean, disrupting fisheries and resulting in severe weather events worldwide.
"La Niña" events are defined by stronger trade winds, and cold, nutrient-rich water occupying much of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Most of the precipitation during these events occurs in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, so rain is abundant over Southeast Asia. Cold La Niñas tend to follow El Niños in the ocean/climate seasonal cycles.
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a long-term ocean fluctuation of the Pacific Ocean, similar to the El Niño/La Niña cycles but on a much larger scale. The PDO waxes and wanes approximately every 20 to 30 years.
El Niño/La Niña & PDO