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Pacific Ocean

The El Niño of the century?

El Niño revealed

From February to April 1997, Topex/Poseidon satellite data pinpointed a large eastward-moving swelling of waters in the central Pacific. This positive sea-level anomaly, over 10 cm and increasing as the months went by, peaked near the coast. In July 1997, the signature was plain and south-east Asia was hit by severe drought. The anomaly, in red on the map, covered an area 1.5 times that of the United States. It corresponded to "extra" warm waters.
      

Closely monitoring the tropical ocean

Topex/Poseidon tracked the development of El Niño, highlighting a maximum anomaly of more than 20 cm in the northern winter. By June 1998, surface height was returning to normal. In July 1998, Topex/Poseidon revealed favourable conditions for La Niña, which developped in 1999. In 2000, ocean once more returned to normal.

February 1997
July 1998
April 1997
April 1999
July 1997
April 2000

Sea level rises, temperature too

Surface temperatures near the Galápagos Islands increased clearly during the northern summer, reaching more than 5°C above normal. These anomalies signalled the start of slack trade winds and increased ocean and atmosphere interactions. The 28.5°C temperature threshold triggered atmospheric convection, producing heavy rains over coastal Ecuador and Peru.

Temperature deviations from the mean at west of the Galapagos Islands : horizontal red line = 28.5°C limit, green curve = normal temperature, in blue = colder temperature, in orange = warmer temperature.
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