EL NiñoS STEADY PACIFIC RAINS
These composite images show that the largest amounts (red) of stratiform rain, up to 60%, occur in the central Pacific during El Niño, such as occurred in the 1998 event. 1999 and 2000 were not El Niño years. CREDIT: University of Washington/NASA
GRAPHING EL Niño RAINS
These graphs were created from the TRMM satellites Precipitation Radar. The top graph shows that almost 60% of the rains that fell around 135 degrees latitude around the equator (central Pacific Ocean) were stratiform, so 40% were convective (thunderstorms). The bottom graph shows that almost 150 mm (5.9 inches) of rain fell in that area during an El Niño. CREDIT: UWA/NASA
Scientists using data from a NASA satellite have found another piece in the global climate puzzle created by El Niño. El Niño events produce more of a steady rain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is important because whenever there is a change in the amount and duration of rainfall over an area, such as the central Pacific, it affects weather regionally and even worldwide.
The findings appeared in a paper authored by Courtney Schumacher and Robert Houze, atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington, Seattle, who used data from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite to look at rainfall over the Pacific during the 1997-1998 El Niño. The study was published in a recent issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.
El Niño occurs when warm water shifts from the western to the eastern Pacific Ocean and trade winds that usually blow from east to west across the equator diminish. As a result, rainfall patterns around the globe change during the life of these periodic climate events, and in some areas create floods or droughts. By identifying the changes in rainfall in one area of the globe, such as the central Pacific Ocean, scientists continue to piece together the El Niño puzzle that will help them improve rainfall forecasts around the world during the life of El Niño.
Rob Gutro | Goddard Space Flight Center
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