The current strong El Niño brewing in the Pacific Ocean shows no signs of waning, as seen in the latest satellite image from the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 mission.
El Niño 2015 has already created weather chaos around the world. Over the next few months, forecasters expect the United States to feel its impacts as well.
The latest Jason-2 image bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997, by Jason-2’s predecessor, the NASA/Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) Topex/Poseidon mission, during the last large El Niño event. Both reflect the classic pattern of a fully developed El Niño. The images can be viewed at: http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/elnino2015/index.html
The images show nearly identical, unusually high sea surface heights along the equator in the central and eastern Pacific: the signature of a big and powerful El Niño. Higher-than-normal sea surface heights are an indication that a thick layer of warm water is present.
Officially referred to as ENSO, or El Niño Southern Ocsillation, this event is a period of dramatically warm surface water temperatures that occurs across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. These events usually alternate with periods of cooler temperatures, or La Niña events, and can have dramatic effects on weather across the globe.
The immediate effects of the warming water are already being felt… Water temperatures around the islands are at least 2°C above normal, pushing our normally cool water into near bathtub temperatures. Local divers are commenting on the warm water temperatures, those who normally wear wet suits are comfortable without.
This warm water is also fueling the series of hurricanes sweeping past the islands. The storms just keep coming. It will be an interesting year!