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2016-02-01. Studying the Heart of El Niño, Where Its Weather Begins.

posted Feb 5, 2016, 10:02 AM by Alan Gould
By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. For GSS Dnergy Flow chapter 8. Excerpt: ...In a Gulfstream jet more accustomed to hunting hurricanes in the Atlantic, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were cruising this desolate stretch of tropical ocean where the northern and southern trade winds meet. ...“One of the most important questions is to resolve how well our current weather and climate models do in representing the tropical atmosphere’s response to an El Niño,” said Randall Dole, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and one of the lead researchers on the project.  ...An El Niño forms about every two to seven years, when the surface winds that typically blow from east to west slacken. As a result, warm water that normally pools along the Equator in the western Pacific piles up toward the east instead. Because of this shift, the expanse of water — which in this El Niño has made the central and eastern Pacific as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than usual — acts as a heat engine, affecting the jet streams that blow at high altitudes. That, in turn, can bring more winter rain to the lower third of the United States and dry conditions to southern Africa, among El Niño’s many possible effects....  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/science/where-el-nino-weather-begins-pacific-ocean-noaa.html