Wednesday, January 6, 2016

El Niño

You’ve probably heard the saying “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” In the past few weeks, I haven’t been happy with the weather. BioTek exhibited at the ASCB show in San Diego in the middle of December, where I was freezing at 57 °F! But in New Jersey at Christmas, I was too hot at 72 °F! From what I hear about this year’s El Niño, we’re in for more surprises.

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:

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:

There’s also this heat map:

Heat map
Well, that’s not from a satellite. In fact, it’s a 99x99 fluorescence area scan generated using a BioTek microplate reader with Gen5 software. Just like the satellite images of El Niño, it provides spatial information - in this case, where the highest levels of fluorescence are. For example, a heat map like this can show you where your GFP-transfected cells are growing within a microplate well. Maybe you already have an application where a heat map generated from an absorbance or fluorescence area scan will help?

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

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