"But which energy source-warm water masses or shifting winds-drives the phenomenon? It is actually both. "El Niño is like the proverbial chicken-and-egg problem," said Michael McPhaden of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. "During an El Niño year, weakening winds along the equator lead to warming surface temperatures that lead to further weakening of the winds.""
"El Niño is like a spring," he said. "Once you set it going in one direction, it doesn't just return to the starting point. It tends to overshoot back in the other direction."
"El Niño is like the water sloshing back and forth in your bathtub. Normally surface winds blow from east to west along the Equator. This normally pushes surface water higher on the west side of the Pacific Ocean."
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