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S P E C I A L El Niño Returns

El Niño is backing off, NASA pictures reveal

The decrease of Niño
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March 26, 1998
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT)

(CNN) -- After dumping feet of water on California and triggering forest fires in Asia, Malaysia, and Indonesia, NASA scientists say the warm-water phenomenon known as El Niño is finally beginning to dissipate.

NASA released several new, time-lapse views Thursday tracking El Niño's movements and temperatures over time. The images, built by combining satellite photos with data gathered from the surface of the sub-tropical Pacific for the last 14 months, show that as of March, El Niño's warm waters are cooling off.

By combining data on the sea surface temperature, wave height, and winds, NASA learned that colder waters are slowly moving east, cooling the warmer-than-normal seas tied to El Niño.

Sea surface-temperature comparison
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Not only are cold waters moving east, said NASA oceanographer Tony Busalacchi, but the data indicate a change in the length of day.

Interview with NASA oceanographer Tony Busalacchi
icon 3 min. 30 sec. VXtreme video

"Very precise measurements from radio telescopes have detected that over the past year that the length of day has increased by about a fraction of a second," he said, adding that El Niño's movement speeds up easterly winds over Earth's surface, slowing the planet's rotation down slightly. "It really does attest to the global scale magnitude of El Niño."

On a global scale more normal conditions are expected
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And if the weather trends follow the last big El Niño event in 1983, Busalacchi forecasts cooler-than-normal weather for fall 1998, as a common El Niño counterpoint known as "La Niña" arrives.

El Nino returns
The Forecast  |  Prediction Meter  |  Ground Zero
The Wet Coast  |  Strange Brew  |  The Trackers

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