Adios El Nino, Hello La Nina?

Jun 22, 2010
The latest data from the NASA/European Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite show that the tropical Pacific has switched from warm, or higher-than-normal sea surface heights (shown in red) to cold, or lower-than-normal sea surface heights (shown in blue) during the last few months. Image Credit: NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Tea

(PhysOrg.com) -- The moderate El Nino of the past year has officially bowed out, leaving his cool sister, La Nina, poised to potentially take the equatorial stage.

The latest image of Pacific Ocean sea surface heights from the NASA/European Ocean Mission/Jason-2 oceanography satellite, dated June 11, 2010, shows that the tropical Pacific has switched from warm (red) to cold (blue) during the last few months. The blue area in the center of the image depicts the recent appearance of cold water hugging the equator, which the satellite measures as a region of lower-than-normal sea level. Remnants of the El Niño warm water pool, shown here in red and yellow, still linger north and south of the equator in the center of the image.

The image shows sea surface height relative to normal ocean conditions. Red (warmer) areas are about 10 centimeters (4 inches) above normal. Green areas indicate near-normal conditions. Purple (cooler) areas are 14 to 18 centimeters (6 to 7 inches) below normal. Blue areas are 5 to 13 centimeters (2 to 5 inches) below normal.

"The central equatorial Pacific Ocean could stay colder than normal into summer and beyond. That's because sea level is already about 10 centimeters [4 inches] below normal, creating a significant deficit of the heat stored in the upper ocean," said JPL and climatologist Bill Patzert. "The next few months will reveal if the current cooling trend will eventually evolve into a long-lasting La Niña situation."

A La Niña is essentially the opposite of an El Niño. During a La Niña, trade winds in the western equatorial Pacific are stronger than normal, and the cold water that normally exists along the coast of South America extends to the central equatorial Pacific. La Niñas change global weather patterns and are associated with less moisture in the air, resulting in less rain along the coasts of North and South America. They also tend to increase the formation of tropical storms in the Atlantic.

"For the American Southwest, La Niñas usually bring a dry winter, not good news for a region that has experienced normal rain and snowpack only once in the past five winters," said Patzert.

Explore further: NASA sees Tropical Cyclone Nilofar being affected by wind shear

More information: For more information on El Niño, La Niña and Jason-2, visit: sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov

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User comments : 13

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DickWilhelm
5 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2010
Sounds like we're on track for a busy hurricane season as predicted. Here's hoping that the containment in place for the GOM Oil Spill is complete by the first storms, no more delays :(
Skeptic_Heretic
3.3 / 5 (3) Jun 22, 2010
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems like a very rapid switch.
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Jun 22, 2010
Dilution is the solution to pollution. Agitation is not consideration.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2010
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems like a very rapid switch.
You're wrong. It normally happens quite rapidly.
Sean_W
1 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2010
The drought last year that affected South America was blamed on El Ni�o. It says that La Ni�a is the reverse situation of an El Ni�o which would suggest to me that they should have a heavier than average rainy season. But the article seems to be saying that South America will get drier weather. Why is it that opposite weather phenomena would both have the same results of low rain in South America?

I have been following the situation at Venezuela's Guri dam which got dangerously low for climatic and operational reasons. So far it seems that the rainy season started early and seems normal, resulting in a (claimed) strong rise in water level. Is the arrival of La Ni�a going to stop the recovery by weakening the rainy season?
Skeptic_Heretic
2.7 / 5 (3) Jun 23, 2010
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems like a very rapid switch.
You're wrong. It normally happens quite rapidly.

No dummy, the cycle appears to have flipped out of it's normal variance. These cycles typically occur over 3 to 5 years, not several months.
gmurphy
not rated yet Jun 23, 2010
From the wiki article: http://en.wikiped...illation Typically, this (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) happens at irregular intervals of 2–7 years and lasts nine months to two years
gmurphy
not rated yet Jun 23, 2010
From the wiki article on El Nino states that the phenomenon happens at irregular intervals of 2–7 years and lasts nine months to two years. I could not find any data relating specifically to how quickly the transition occurs.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2010
@Sean_W,
Why is it that opposite weather phenomena would both have the same results of low rain in South America?
Pay attention: the article /actually/ says this (emphasis and clarification added):
La Niñas change global weather patterns and are associated with less moisture in the air, resulting in less rain ***along the [Pacific] coasts*** of North and South America. They also tend to ***increase*** the formation of tropical storms in the ***Atlantic***.
The El Nino-attributed droughts last year affected Central American countries, and South American countries that lay to the *east* of the Andes -- all of which received less Atlantic-derived rain than normal.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2010
@Skeptic Heretic (or should I start calling you Skeptic Alizee?)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems like a very rapid switch.
You're wrong. It normally happens quite rapidly.
No dummy, the cycle appears to have flipped out of it's normal variance. These cycles typically occur over 3 to 5 years, not several months.
No dummy. Why don't you try doing a little research before spouting off? We've known for a few months now that El Nino was subsiding.

See:
http://www.cpc.no...isc.html

And, the cycles often occur back to back, as they regulate one another. It's a matter of their intensity.

See:
http://www.climas...tion.pdf

Of course, being scientifically illiterate and irrational to boot, you'll later deny that I provided any references...
ubavontuba
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2010
Here's a cool chart that actually shows historical El Nino and La Nina events since 1950. Notice how they often occur back to back:

http://www.cpc.no...rs.shtml
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Jun 24, 2010
I'm not speaking about the transistion from one to the other I'm speaking about the transition from La Nina in 08 to El Nino in 09 to La Nina in 2010. It appears to be a tad short and quick this time around. Your chart does show precedence for the speed of this cycle flip. Thanks.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2010
I'm not speaking about the transistion from one to the other I'm speaking about the transition from La Nina in 08 to El Nino in 09 to La Nina in 2010. It appears to be a tad short and quick this time around. Your chart does show precedence for the speed of this cycle flip. Thanks.
You're welcome.

The ENSO isn't exactly as regular as clockwork.

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