www.sensorsandsystems.com Written by NASA 18 May 2014
Data from ocean-observing satellites and other ocean sensors indicate that El Nino conditions appear to be developing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Conditions in May 2014 bear some similarities to those of May 1997, a year that brought one of the most potent El Nino events of the 20th century.
During an El Nino, easterly trade winds in the Pacific falter and allow giant waves of warm water – known as Kelvin waves – to drift across from the western Pacific toward South America. Surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific become significantly warmer than normal, altering weather patterns and affecting fisheries along the west coasts of the Americas. El Nino also can have a significant influence on weather and climate far from the tropics.
The maps above show the ten-day average of sea surface height centered on May 2, 1997 (left), and May 3, 2014. Shades of red and orange indicate where the water is warmer and above normal sea level. Shades of blue-green show where sea level and temperatures are lower than average. Normal sea-level conditions appear in white. The 1997 map was assembled from data collected by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite, while the 2014 data comes from the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason 2 satellite
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