Pacific chills with growing La Nina

Sep 16, 2010
La Niña continues to strengthen in the Pacific Ocean, as shown in the latest satellite data of sea surface heights from the NASA/European Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite. The image is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Sept. 3, 2010. Higher (warmer) than normal sea surface heights are indicated by yellows and reds, while lower (cooler) than normal sea surface heights are depicted in blues and purples. Green indicates near-normal conditions. Image credit: NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Team

(PhysOrg.com) -- The tropical Pacific Ocean has transitioned from last winter's El Nino conditions to a cool La Nina, as shown by new data about sea surface heights, collected by the U.S-French Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 oceanography satellite.

This OSTM/Jason-2 image of the Pacific is based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Sept. 3, 2010. A new image depicts places where the Pacific height is higher (warmer) than normal as yellow and red, with places where the sea surface is lower (cooler) than normal as blue and purple. Green indicates near-normal conditions. Sea surface height is an indicator of how much of the sun's heat is stored in the upper ocean.

La Niña often follow an El Niño episode and are essentially the opposite of El Niño conditions. During a La Niña episode, trade winds are stronger than normal, and the cold water that normally exists along the coast of South America extends to the central equatorial Pacific. La Niña episodes change global weather patterns and are associated with less moisture in the air over cooler ocean waters, resulting in less rain along the coasts of North and South America and the equator, and more rain in the far Western Pacific.

"This La Niña has strengthened for the past four months, is strong now and is still building," said Climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It will surely impact this coming winter's weather and climate.

"After more than a decade of mostly dry years on the Colorado River watershed and in the American Southwest, and only one normal rain year in the past five years in Southern California, water supplies are dangerously low," Patzert added. "This La Niña could deepen the drought in the already parched Southwest and could also worsen conditions that have fueled Southern California's recent deadly wildfires."
NASA will continue to track this change in Pacific climate.

The comings and goings of El Niño and La Niña are part of a long-term, evolving state of global climate, for which measurements of sea surface height are a key indicator. JPL manages the U.S. portion of the OSTM/Jason-2 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

Explore further: NASA sees intensifying typhoon Phanfone heading toward Japan

More information: To view the latest Jason-1 and OSTM/Jason-2 data, see sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/science/jason1-quick-look/

Related Stories

Adios El Nino, Hello La Nina?

Jun 22, 2010

(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.

Oscillation Rules as the Pacific Cools

Dec 10, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- The latest image of sea-surface height measurements from the U.S./French Jason-1 oceanography satellite shows the Pacific Ocean remains locked in a strong, cool phase of the Pacific Decadal ...

Forecasters say El Nino may be developing

Jun 08, 2009

(AP) -- A new El Nino could be approaching. Sea-surface temperatures have been warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean, suggesting the potential for the development of the El Nino climate phenomenon this summer, according ...

Recommended for you

Sculpting tropical peaks

22 hours ago

Tropical mountain ranges erode quickly, as heavy year-round rains feed raging rivers and trigger huge, fast-moving landslides. Rapid erosion produces rugged terrain, with steep rivers running through deep ...

Volcano expert comments on Japan eruption

23 hours ago

Loÿc Vanderkluysen, PhD, who recently joined Drexel as an assistant professor in Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, returned Friday from fieldwork ...

User comments : 0