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NASA Finds Wind Pattern Change in Stratosphere, Was it Linked to Pacific Decadal Oscillation?

Global map of 2015 temperatureScientists at NASA were surprised to see major change in wind pattern in the tropical stratosphere after almost six decades later called the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO), first observed in 1953.

QBO helps scientists to understand and predict the weather changes. The current change in QBO was found in December 2015 when the winds coming from west started changing their pattern and stood right back upward blocking of the eastern winds. Surprisingly, the change remained constant for over seven months till the end of July 2016.


Paul Newman, lead scientist from NASA Goddard said, “If Old Faithful stopped for a day, you’d begin to wonder what was happening under the ground.” The scientists said such changes could be attributed to large volcanic eruptions or meteorite impacts on Earth.

Some researchers believe that changes in stratosphere could be the reason for global rise of temperature on Earth, which is leading to global climate change. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard in their paper published in Geophysical Research Letters said, “The quasi-biennial oscillation is the stratosphere’s Old Faithful.”

It may be recalled that last year in a similar study by NASA< it was found that ocean temperatures from 2003–2012 found that despite increase in greenhouse gases, the global surface temperature is cooling down, a strange phenomenon. It said extra heat could be getting stored in the ocean.

The Pacific Ocean is trapping ocean heat energy with shifting patterns, including the Indian Ocean, is another strange phenomenon that has intrigued many researchers.

While the trapped heat beneath the ocean is temporarily slowing down the surface temperature, though greenhouse gases are generating more heat energy on earth. Ever since the turn of 21st century, the heat is increasingly trapped in the ocean waters and the surface temperature is cooling down but temporarily, observed the study.

“The western Pacific got so warm that some of the warm water is leaking into the Indian Ocean through the Indonesian archipelago,” said Veronica Nieves, who was the lead author of a paper.

What is puzzling to the scientsts is the fact that the air temperature over the oceans is cooling down in the last one decade. Cooler surface temperatures could be due to a long-known climatic pattern called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, they said.

Or the movement of the warm Pacific water westward could have pulled heat away from the surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific, resulting in unusually cool surface temperatures in this region.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation moves in a 20 to 30 year cycle and the current pattern may be changing to the opposite phase, with observations showing warmer-than-usual water in the eastern Pacific, they explain in the paper. But the surge in global surface warming is definite, said Nieves.


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