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Improved near-real-time tracking of 2010 El Niño reveals marine life reductions
Date:3/3/2010

The ongoing El Nio of 2010 is affecting north Pacific Ocean ecosystems in ways that could affect the West Coast fishing industry, according to scientists at NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Researchers with the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) at Scripps and NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center report a stronger than normal northward movement of warm water up the Southern California coast, a high sea-level event in January and low abundances of plankton and pelagic fish all conditions consistent with El Nio.

Sea surface temperatures along the entire West Coast are 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius (0.9 to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal and at points off Southern California are as much as 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.9 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal. The most unusually high temperatures were mapped around Catalina and San Clemente islands. While strong winter storms caused an increase in coastal sea levels, scientists are investigating whether the higher sea levels are primarily a result of El Nio, a cyclical phenomenon characterized by warming eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean waters.

"Based on our previous experience of El Nio in California, it is likely to reduce ocean production below normal, with possible effects extending to breeding failure of seabirds, and much lower catches in the market squid fishery," said Sam McClatchie, a fisheries oceanographer at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries. "However, predictions are never certain, and CalCOFI and NOAA ocean-observing systems will continue to provide essential monitoring of the situation."

A combination of satellite remote sensing and field measurements is offering scientists a broader view of the evolution of this El Nio that was not available during previous El Nios, which were especially strong in 1982-83 and 1997-98. Internet technology aboard CalCOFI research vessels is delivering that informatio
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Contact: Robert Monroe
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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