National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Increasing intensity of El Niño in the central-equatorial Pacific

Lee, T., and M.J. McPhaden

Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14603, doi: 10.1029/2010GL044007 (2010)

Satellite observations suggest that the intensity of El Niño events in the central equatorial Pacific (CP) has almost doubled in the past three decades, with the strongest warming occurring in 2009–10. This is related to the increasing intensity as well as occurrence frequency of the so-called CP El Niño events since the 1990s. While sea surface temperature (SST) in the CP region during El Niño years has been increasing, those during neutral and La Niña years have not. Therefore, the well-documented warming trend of the warm pool in the CP region is primarily a result of more intense El Niño events rather than a general rise of background SST.

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