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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK


Pacific 'out of balance'

La Nina is breaking up but the Pacific is not back to normal

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

The sea level and temperature of the entire Pacific is "out of balance" according to new sea-surface height measurements made by the US-French Topex/Poseidon satellite.

"This will certainly influence global climate and weather for the coming summer and into next fall," says oceanographer Dr William Patzert, at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

[ image: Impression of TOPEX-Poseidon]
Impression of TOPEX-Poseidon
The satellite image shows a large area of abnormally cool water along the west coast of North America and down into the equatorial Pacific.

This is the third consecutive year that such large imbalances have persisted in that ocean.

Dr Patzert says, "Our data certainly show that the unusual oceanic-climatic conditions that gave rise to El Niño and La Niña are not returning to a normal state. Our planet's climate system continues to exhibit rather wild behavior."

Unusually cool water is revealed by areas of lower sea level (shown in blue and purple) and extends from the Gulf of Alaska along the North American coast.

There it merges with the remnants of the recent La Niña cooling event in the Pacific.

The northwest Pacific continues to be warmer than normal, though the variations from normal are not as great as in recent months.

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