El Niño Watch
West Coast Regional Node

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The El Niño Watch is a monthly production of the West Coast Regional Node. It was started in January, 1992, in response to the onset of El Niño conditions in the equatorial Pacific. One of the main El Niño indicators for the U.S. west coast is the presence of warmer than average surface water.

The advisories include analyses of coastal ocean average sea-surface-temperature (SST), deviations of SST from average, coastal upwelling indices, information on ocean currents, thermocline structure, and the potential impacts on living marine resources.

The El Niño charts are derived from:

  • SWFSC|ERD Coastal Upwelling Indices: Monthly indices of the intensity of large-scale, wind-induced coastal upwelling at 15 standard locations along the west coast of North America, produced by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center's Environmental Research Division.
  • Climate Prediction Center El Niño Diagnostic Discussion: Monthly analyses of the El Niño Southern Oscillation by NOAA's Climate Prediction Experts.
  • AVHRR Global Coverage SST: Sea surface temperatures measured from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometers carried aboard the NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Spacecraft. The cloud-cleared SST data are produced in near real time at 6-hour intervals by the Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution, NOAA satellites and Information.
  • Pathero Climatology: A satellite-based surface temperature climatology developed by Ken Casey (National Oceanographic Data Center, NOAA Satellites and Information) and Peter Cornillon (Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island) based on the AVHRR Pathfinder data set.
  • SeaWiFS Ocean Color: Ocean color measurements from the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor on the Orbview-2 spacecraft (Orbimage Incorporated) provide estimates of near-surface ocean chlorophyll, a photosynthetic pigment found in phytoplankton. This in turn provides a rough measure of phytoplankton abundance and distribution.
  • QuikSCAT Winds: Ocean surface wind fields measured from the Seawinds scatterometer carried aboard NASA's QuikSCAT spacecraft. Basic wind measurements are used to derive the wind stress curl, a measure of the oceanic convergence or divergence that results from the overall structure of the surface winds.
The most recent issue is available online, along with archived issues back to 1992:

El Niño Reports


The SST time series graph below shows the SST monthly average (NCEP data) minus the COADS 2 1950-97 monthly mean values for each of three defined West coast regions. The SST animations run through the El Niño images for various time periods.

SST Time Series
SST Animations

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