According to NASA, an El Niño weather event occurs when warm water (35-38 °F higher than normal) accumulates in the Pacific Ocean. Normally, strong equatorial winds push the warm water westward but last year, these winds were weaker than usual, allowing the warm water to move north towards California and south to Chile. Not only does this affect the local waters and aquatic wildlife, but influences extreme weather patterns worldwide. Recently, news headlines warn of flooding, ice storms and droughts. There are also comparisons between the 1997 El Niño and the current El Niño with NASA releasing this satellite image:
Heat maps can provide spatial information. In the image above, we can see that the sea surface height is highest around the equator, indicative of a pile-up of warm surface water. The full animation is amazing and can be found here: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/archive/PIA20009_1997vs2015-animated.gif.
There’s also this heat map:
Whenever I hear the quote "If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes", I always imagine that it will get better. In our case, during El Niño conditions, it may actually get worse!
By: BioTek Instruments, Ellaine Abueg Ph.D., Product Manager, Specialist