Can We Blame El Niño for Wild Weather?
ESU601  Sea Temperature Changes

The three images below represent temperature and elevation differences for normal, El Niño, and La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. They show a narrow slice of the ocean viewed as if you are looking west along the equator from the west coast of South America. Latitude and longitude information is shown on the bottom of the 3-D block, depth information is shown along the side of the block. The data come from the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) network of ocean buoys in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean.

  !   Examine the images carefully to interpret the three-dimensional information they represent.


Normal Phase
This view shows the normal temperature and sea level along the equator. Temperatures are higher in the western Pacific, so the thermocline slopes downward to the west.

El Niño Phase
During El Niño, ocean temperatures and sea level in the eastern Pacific are higher than normal. The thermocline has flattened out, indicating a more even distribution of warm water across the ocean.

La Niña Phase
During La Niña, temperatures and sea level are higher than normal in the western Pacific Ocean and lower than normal in the eastern Pacific.

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