This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science.
A giant horseshoe pattern of higher than normal sea-surface heights developing
over the last year is beginning to dominate the entire western Pacific and
Asiatic oceans, new imagery from the U.S.-French TOPEX/Poseidon satellite shows.
Warmer and cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures influence our
atmosphere every day, while sea-surface heights are a measure of how much heat
is stored in the ocean below, said Dr. William Patzert, an oceanographer at JPL. When you put these
two pieces of the climate puzzle together, they will tell us both about what is
influencing today's weather and how much heat is being stored in
the ocean to fuel future planetary climate events.
The latest data, taken December 30, 1999 through January 8, 2000, show that
this slow-developing condition covers most of the Pacific Ocean. The strength
of this climate trend is seen in this TOPEX/Poseidon satellite
image. Sea-surface height is shown relative to normal (green) height and reveals
cooler water (blue and purple) measuring between 8 and 24 centimeters (3 and 9
inches) lower than normal along the coast of Central and South America, and
stretching out into the equatorial Pacific. The giant horseshoe of warmer water
(red and white) dominating the western and mid-latitude Pacific has higher than
normal sea- surface heights of between 8 and 24 centimeters (3 and 9 inches). For
the past year, warmer waters have been expanding slowly and are now beginning to
dominate the western and north Pacific.