Western U.S. to get smoggy summer, fall
Cold waters stretching from Alaska to Baja California mean a smoggy summer for the western United States
June 2, 1999
Web posted at: 4:00 PM EDT
Coastal residents of the western United States should hunker down for a smoggy summer and fall, NASA scientists say. Southern California's seasonal "June gloom" weather, caused by a marine layer that traps smog over the Los Angeles basin, will probably pay an extended visit this year.
The Pacific Ocean, from the Gulf of Alaska all the way down to Baja California, is cooler than usual for this time of year, said William Patzert, an oceanographer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration working with data from the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite.
The cold waters mean a large temperature contrast between the land and ocean -- conditions that favor the formation of a strong inversion layer that traps smog over cities, such as the Los Angeles, Calif., basin.
These conditions also existed during the summers of 1988 and 1989, Patzert says. By contrast, the warm waters generated by the El Niño phenomenon in 1998 caused lower smog levels along the West Coast.
Sea surface height measurements from the U.S./French
satellite show that the sea level and temperature of the entire
Pacific is "out of balance." An extra large El Niño, followed by a modest La Niña, has contributed to this imbalance.
"Our data certainly show that the unusual oceanic climatic conditions that gave rise to the El Niño and La Niña are not returning to a normal state," said Patzert. "Instead, our planet's climate system continues to exhibit rather wild behavior. These large warm and cold, high and low sea levels are slow-developing and long-lasting, and will certainly influence global climate and weather for the coming summer and into next fall."
"Whatever Mother Nature is doing, she's not done with us yet."
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