From: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center
Published May 26, 2017 01:16 PM

A 3D Look at the 2015 El Nino

El Niño is a recurring climate pattern characterized by warmer than usual ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Two back-to-back 3-D visualizations track the changes in ocean temperatures and currents, respectively, throughout the life cycle of the 2015-2016 El Niño event, chronicling its inception in early 2015 to its dissipation by April 2016. Blue regions represent colder and red regions warmer temperatures when compared with normal conditions.

Under normal conditions, equatorial trade winds in the Pacific Ocean blow from east to west, causing warm water to pile up in the Western Pacific, while also causing an upwelling—the rise of deep, cool water to the surface—in the Eastern Pacific. During an El Niño, trade winds weaken or, as with this latest event, sometimes reverse course and blow from west to east. As a result, the warm surface water sloshes east along the equator from the Western Pacific and temporarily predominates in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean. At that same time, cooler water slowly migrates westward just off the equator in the Western Pacific.

The first visualization shows the 2015-2016 El Niño through changes in sea surface temperature as warmer water moves east across the Pacific Ocean. The Eastern Pacific Ocean undergoes the most warming from July 2015 to January 2016. In the west, just to the north of the equator, cooler waters hit the western boundary and reflect along the equator and then head east starting in February 2016. Just as the warming waves traveled east earlier in the video, these cool waters make their way to the central Pacific, terminating the warming event there.

Continue reading at NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Watch this video on the NASA Goddard YouTube channel.

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