El Nino Resurging in November 2009


Last month the Climate Prediction Center announced that El Niño was expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-2010.

Recent measurements of sea level height from the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 oceanography satellite showed that El Niño is experiencing late-fall resurgence.  A strong wave of warm water, known as a Kelvin wave, had spread from the western to the central and eastern Pacific. This Kelvin wave was triggered by a large-scale, sustained weakening of trade winds in the western and central equatorial Pacific during October.

El Nino Resurging in November 2009. Acquired October 26, 2009 - November 5, 2009. Credit:NASA image by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ocean Surface Topography Team.

This image was created with data collected OSTM/Jason 2 during a 10-day period centred on November 1, 2009.

Sea surface height is an indication of temperature because water expands slightly as it warms (thermal expansion) and contracts as it cools. The elevated sea levels in the central and eastern Pacific are equivalent to sea surface temperatures more than one to two degrees Celsius above normal (two to four degrees Fahrenheit).

Red and white areas in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific were 100 to 180 millimetres (4 to 7 inches) above normal. In the western equatorial Pacific, blue and purple areas show where sea levels were between 80 and 150 millimetres (3 and 6 inches) below normal.

El Niño means drought in some parts of the world, such as Indonesia. But for the American west this late charge by El Niño “is a pleasant surprise, upping the odds for much needed rain and an above-normal winter snowpack,” said oceanographer Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Source and more information: Earth Observatory, NASA

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