August 2015 – CLIMATE – Exceptionally warm water moving from the western Pacific Ocean towards South America has caused El Niño to get even stronger in recent weeks. In fact, scientists claim conditions in the Pacific are now as intense as they were in the summer of 1997, when a massive El Niño was brewing. While this could be good news for drought-stricken areas such as California, researchers warn it may also lead to torrential and hazardous downpours elsewhere.
El Nino events tend to warm the Earth’s atmosphere by suppressing the upwelling of cold water from the ocean that can absorb excess heat. But as well as bringing relief, El Niño can have devastating consequences for agriculture. It can trigger heavy rains and floods in South America and scorching weather in Asia and as far away as east Africa. ‘We have not seen a signal like this in the tropical Pacific since 1997,’ said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA. ‘It’s no sure bet that we will have a strong El Niño, but the signal is getting stronger. What happens in August through October should make or break this event.’ The pulses of warmer water moving across the ocean are Kelvin waves.
Sea level is naturally higher in the western Pacific; in fact, it is roughly 40 to 50cm (15-20 inches) higher near Indonesia than off of Ecuador. Much of this difference is due to tropical trade winds, which predominantly blow from east to west across the Pacific Ocean, piling up the water near Asia and Oceania. When those trade winds ease and bursts of wind come out of the west, warm water from the western Pacific sloshes east in vast and deep waves and evens out sea level a bit. –Daily Mail