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Tracking El Nino and its Effects on Life in the Ocean

March 30, 2016

An interview with NOAA Fisheries’ two top scientists on the West Coast.

satellite sea surface temperature map of el nino

Satellite sea surface temperature during January, 2016. Colors show where average monthly sea surface temperature was above (red) or below (blue) its 1981-2010 average. Waters across the tropical Pacific Ocean were warmer than average during this month, suggesting that El Nino still had a grip on the basin. Photo: climate.gov/NNVL. Data: Geo-Polar SST.

We’ve had a very powerful El Niño this year. That, of course, is the phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that causes rains and coastal flooding on parts of the West Coast, extreme weather on the East Coast, and crazy weather in many parts of the world.

But El Niño isn’t just about weather on land. It also has profound effects on life in the ocean, and that, of course, is where NOAA Fisheries comes in.

In this podcast, the agency’s two top scientists on the West Coast discuss those effects. Cisco Werner is the Director of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California and John Stein is the Director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. We’ve gotten very good at predicting when an El Niño will happen and what its effects will be, they say. But as the climate changes, cyclical events like El Niño are rising off a shifting baseline. That will keep our scientists on their toes.

Last updated by Office of Communications on February 21, 2023