Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 1, Page 12
Fall 1992
Checking out the ocean's hot spots

      A University of Delaware oceanographer has produced a satellite image
pinpointing the ocean's hottest water--a warm pool around 29.5 Celsius (86
degrees Fahrenheit) just above New Guinea.
      Xiao-Hai Yan, associate director of the University's Center for
Remote Sensing, has developed data processing software to convert satellite
data into the image, which graphically corroborates shipboard observations.
Such satellite images will give researchers a powerful tool to track the
so-called Pacific warm pool as its temperature and size fluctuate each
      The Pacific warm pool plays a key role in regulating the Earth's
climate by storing and transporting both heat and greenhouse gases, Yan
says, and his comparison of satellite data from 1982-1990 shows a slow
warming trend and a gradual increase in area.
      Yan says that satellite observations may give new insight into El
Nino, because the early stages of this notorious warm current may develop
in the Pacific warm pool. As El Nino flows south along the western coast of
South America, it disrupts local fishing and climates in distant places.
According to Yan, El Nino events have been accompanied by droughts in
Australia, India and Africa; floods in South America and China; and severe
winter storms in the U.S. and Asia. "Therefore, it is extremely important
to understand the relationship between the warm pool dynamics, El Nino
events and global climate changes," he says.