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La Niña coming? Deep pool of cool water is making its way across tropical Pacific

May 21, 2016

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La Nina is coming

SubSurfTemp_2016Mar14-May3_620

One of the strongest El Niños on record has been dominating the tropical Pacific Ocean for the past year. But beneath the surface, a deep pool of cool water has been sliding slowly eastward for the past couple of months. This massive, slow-motion wave is a favorable sign that La Niña—the cool phase of the ENSO climate pattern—might develop.

This animated gif shows where temperatures in the top 300 meters (~1,000 feet) of the Pacific Ocean at the equator were warmer or cooler than average during 5-day periods centered on three dates this spring: March 14, April 13, and May 3.

As the weeks pass, the layer of warm water at the surface contracts to the central Pacific and becomes very shallow, a sign that the current El Niño is on its way out. By the final frame of the animation, the cold pool…

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