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Warm Ocean Temperatures Blanket the Far-Western Pacific

These data, taken during a 10-day collection cycle ending March 9, 2001, show that above-normal sea-surface heights and warmer ocean temperatures (indicated by the red and white areas) still blanket the far-western tropical Pacific and much of the north (and south) mid-Pacific. Red areas are about 10 centimeters (4 inches) above normal; white areas show the sea-surface height is between 14 and 32 centimeters (6 to 13 inches) above normal.

This build-up of heat dominating the Western Pacific was first noted by TOPEX/Poseidon oceanographers more than two years ago and has outlasted the El Niño and La Niña events of the past few years. See: . This warmth contrasts with the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and tropical Pacific where lower-than-normal sea levels and cool ocean temperatures continue (indicated by blue areas). The blue areas are between 5 and 13 centimeters (2 and 5 inches) below normal, whereas the purple areas range from 14 to18 centimeters (6 to 7 inches) below normal. Actually, the near-equatorial ocean cooled through the fall of 2000 into mid-winter and continues almost La Niña-like.

Looking at the entire Pacific basin, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation's warm horseshoe and cool wedge pattern still dominates this sea-level height image. Most recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sea-surface temperature data also clearly illustrate the persistence of this basin-wide pattern. They are available at

Image courtesy CNES, NASA, and JPL TOPEX/Poseidon project