National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

ocean carbon

El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean has major worldwide social and economic consequences through its global scale effects on atmospheric and oceanic circulation, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and other natural systems. It is the most dramatic year-to-year variation of the Earth’s climate system, affecting agriculture, public health, freshwater availability, power generation, and economic activity in the United States and around the globe. Ongoing climate change is projected to significantly alter ENSO’s dynamics and impacts. 

Book cover of "El Nino Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate" with an image of the Pacific Ocean and the US with a red band along the equator and along the US Southwest Coastline representing warmer than normal temperatures

Satellite sea surface temperature departure for October 2015 over the Pacific. Orange-red colors indicate above normal temperatures, indicative of an El Niño condition. The 2015-16 El Niño was the first extreme El Niño of the 21st century and among the three strongest El Niños on record. Credit: NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)


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