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Climate variation is when climate patterns are disrupted by phenomenon like the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). In both cases these phenomenon are not directional, but rather vary between positive and negative phases of state. With El Nino, the positive state of ENSO, the PNW winters are often warmer, coastal upwelling can be reduced, and coastal waters are often measurably warmer. With La Nina, the negative phase of ENSO, PNW temperatures are usually colder, both in the air and the ocean. The typical duration of either phase of ENSO is about a year or less. The PDO is similar, but operates on a longer timescale, usually about 20 years between the cold, wet versus the warm, dry phases.

Areas of Emphasis

Related Topics

Coastal & Marine Spatial Planning

Related NANOOS Products

NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL) Carbon Program

The primary mission is to evaluate the variability in air-sea CO2 fluxes by conducting high resolution time-series measurements of atmospheric boundary layer and surface ocean CO2 partial pressure (pCO2).

Columbia River Climatological Atlas

The Climatological Atlas is a scientific project designed to offer insights into multiple scales of variability of the contemporary Columbia River coastal margin, via statistics of an extensive set of indicators. The focus of the Atlas is on indicators for the estuary and plume, but indicators of external forcing are also included for context.

Puget Sound ORCA

Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer (ORCA) measures physical, chemical, and biological water characteristics in Hood Canal.

Cha'ba Buoy

Multi-depth moored buoy deployed off La Push, Washington that collects physical, chemical, and biological water variables.

NANOOS members involved in this effort include:

Regional Coastal Observing Systems



Central and Northern California

Great Lakes

Gulf of Mexico

Pacific Islands


Northeast Atlantic

Pacific Northwest

Southern California

Southeast Atlantic