PMEL climate scientists describe in a recently published paper the relationship between the 2014-15 failed El Niño and this year’s monster El Niño as well as any similarities between the past strong El Niño’s. They examined changes in sea surface and sub-surface temperatures, winds, and volumes of warm water in the Pacific Ocean from 2014 to 2016.
What they found was that the highly anticipated 2014-15 El Niño event failed due to unusually strong easterly winds in the summer of 2014 which prevented the warm surface water from shifting eastward as seen in a typical El Niño events and left a reservoir of warm water below the ocean’s surface. This reservoir of warm water combined with strong westerly winds that appeared and continued throughout the spring and summer of 2015 led to the monster El Niño. They found a similar series of events that led to the 1991-92 El Nino event.
PMEL in the News
When the state delayed our local Dungeness crab season last November, San Franciscans were upset. I heard people blame climate change for the toxic algae bloom that poisoned our crabs, but this explanation may be too simple. What really caused the unusual bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia phytoplankton
The phenomenon known as El Niño, which combined with human-caused warming to supercharge global temperature in 2015/16 and brought chaotic weather worldwide, is officially on its way out. But stepping quickly into El Niño’s shoes is its cooler counterpart, La Niña.
Studying where some of the smallest organisms in the ocean are located can be difficult when they are found beneath the surface. In the late summer and early fall, phytoplankton in the Chukchi Sea are usually found in thin, patchy layers that can only be observed using shipboard surveys. In a collaborative effort between PMEL’s EcoFOCI group and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, scientists were able to map the distribution of subsurface phytoplankton using a novel high-resolution towed... more