Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How Much El Nino Warm Water Is Out There?

Often times, weather maps are hard to conceptualize unless you use them everyday. Since the summer, my El Nino posts have been filled with colorful maps analyzing ocean water temperatures, air pressure, possible winter storm tracks and air temperature. These maps are pretty basic for meteorologists and atmospheric scientists who view these everyday. For the non-scientific viewer, the colors can be as convoluted as a Rorschach diagram if not properly put into perspective.

Below is a picture of the Pacific Ocean temperatures relative to average.  Warmer and cooler pockets are easily visible. The El Nino is the band of warmer colors in the middle along the equator.

Just how large is this area of warmth?  How much water are we talking about?

Consider that the length of Lake Erie is approximately 240 miles. The distance across the main ENSO region in the yellow box below where the core of the warmth is located is roughly 5000 miles. The depth of this warmth is roughly 100 meters or slightly more than 300 feet.

The area boxed in yellow is roughly equivalent to 75% of the contiguous United States.

Performing a quick volume calculation (area times depth), we come up a HUGE volume of relative warm water in the El Nino region using these parameters: 

The VOLUME water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean where water temps are running at least 3 degrees Celsius (~5 deg Fahrenheit) above normal is more than 25 TIMES GREATER than volume of ALL the Great Lakes! WOW!