How the Climate System Works

Answers to some of the questions that readers frequently ask NOAA experts about El Niño and La Niña.

March 2011

  • The ocean is the largest solar energy collector on Earth. More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. Not all of that heating is detectable at the surface because currents move some of the heat to deeper layers of water, where it can "hide" for years or decades.