NASA Watches the El Niño of 2015 That May be the Strongest in Years

First Posted: Oct 20, 2015 10:20 AM EDT

Every two to seven years, an unusually warm pool of water develops across the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean to create a short-term climate change event. Known as El Niño, this event is now being studied as never before by NASA scientists.

This year's El Niño is already strong, and appears likely to equal the event of 1997 to 1998, which is the strongest El Niño on record. Now, researchers are using NASA's Earth-observing missions to get a better understanding of the mechanics and global impacts of El Niño.

El Niño has far-reaching and diverse impacts. In fact, fires in Indonesia are linked with circulation patterns that influence rainfall over the United States. This, in particular, shows how interconnected the El Niño system is.

NASA satellites help scientists see the global impact of El Niño. The warmer-than-normal eastern Pacific Ocean has far-reaching effects worldwide. These events spur disasters like fires and floods, change storm tracks, cloud cover and other weather patterns, and have devastating effects on fisheries and other industries.

Already, researchers have noted that El Niño affects year-to-year variability for fire seasons in the western United States, Amazon and Indonesia. El Niño may also affect the yearly variability of the ground-level pollutant ozone that severely impacts human health. The scientists are especially interested in how this system will affect the current severe drought in California.

Researchers are currently monitoring satellites in order to find out a bit more about this weather system. By better understanding El Niño, researchers can predict the type of climate that may affect different regions of the world.

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