Intense El Niño May Be Developing (Photo)
A natural climate cycle that brings abnormally toasty temperatures to the Pacific Ocean, El Niño occurs when winds pile up warm water in the eastern part of the equatorial Pacific, triggering changes in atmospheric circulation that affects rainfall and storm patterns around the world.  Sea-surface height can reveal if such heat is being stored in particular regions of the ocean, since water expands as it warms. Above-normal sea-surface height in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, in turn, can suggest an El Niño is developing, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. That’s what is showing up right now, as satellite images taken from the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason 2 satellite reveal sea-surface height, averaged over a 10-day period centered on May 3, is above normal. A similar anomaly showed up during May 1997 — which coincided with one of the strongest El Niños ever experienced. That year North America saw one of its warmest and wettest winters on record; Central and South America saw immense rainstorms and flooding; and Indonesia along with parts of Asia endured severe droughts, the Earth Observatory noted. More