NASA Warns 'El Niño 2014 Phenomenon' May be Similar to 1997 Occurrence
By Ma Evelyn Castino Quilas | May 20, 2014 2:46 PM EST
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a warning regarding El Niño 2014 that will be most likely similar to the 1997 phenomenon.
Regular monitoring every 10 days from NASA/French Space Agency Jason-2 satellite maps revealed there are massive ripples at sea level called "Kelvin waves" traveling from Australia across the Pacific Ocean to South America which could be a precursor of El Niño.
When trade winds abate for several months, Kelvin waves parade across the Pacific Ocean causing sea levels to rise, leaving warmer equatorial waters behind them.
According to an article from NASA Web site, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Climatologist Bill Patzert said, "A pattern of sea surface heights and temperatures has formed that reminds me of the way the Pacific looked in the spring of 1997."
The climatologist recalled the El Niño incident that took place in 1997-98 was a textbook example as the agency was still gathering data from the predecessor of Jason-2 satellite, the TOPEX/Poseidon. Sea surface maps showed a whitish bump, indicating a sea level some 10 centimeters higher than usual, moving along the equator from Australia to South America," he added.
Mike McPhaden of NOAA's Pacific Environmental Research Laboratories in Seattle said the data from Jason 2 satellite corroborated with the El Niño Watch that NOAA released on April.
He cited, "The same pattern is repeating in 2014. A series of Kelvin waves generated by localized west wind bursts in the western Pacific that began in mid-January 2014 are headed east. Excitement is building as a third weakening of the Pacific trade winds happened in mid-April."
Ocean and atmospheric scientists from both agencies are closely monitoring the trade winds in the Pacific Ocean.
"We can't yet say for sure that an El Niño will develop in 2014, or how big it might be," McPhaden cautioned.
"A much clearer result will be obtained in the next two to three months whether the recent developments captured is a herald of a major El Niño-or any El Niño at all.
Earlier this month, experts from Australia Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) raised the El Niño-Southern Oscillation tracker to ALERT level. Six out of the seven models from BOM forecasted that the El Niño will hit around by July which might be the strongest phenomenon in two decades.
With the looming El Niño, it is expected there will be increased risk of having fire and drought while there will be lesser tropical cyclones. Southern and inland portions of Australia will most likely have lesser rain in the winter and spring.
Meanwhile, the northern portion will have rainfall come September to January because the normal wet season and monsoon will arrive at a much later time. There will also have warmer temperature during the day and longer winter in the southern portion of Australia.
To contact the editor, e-mail: