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Abnormal features of the Pacific wind system during the 1997-1998 El Niño

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The 1997-1998 El Niño, the strongest in recorded history, manifested itself with a number of unusual features associated with the Pacific wind system. These features include: (1) an annual cycle of an east-west migration of a weakened wind speed zone between 2° N-9° N; (2) an asymmetric see-saw process of trade wind variations between the two hemispheres in terms of relative intensity and central position; and (3) an 18-month cycle of meridional oscillations of the Pacific doldrums and trade wind belts. In addition, the commonly-used argument of trade wind relaxation in association with El Niños appears to be partly introduced, at least for the present case, by the 'tilt effect' of the Pacific zonal winds. These novel findings, revealed by the newly available multi-year TOPEX altimeter data, may help to improve existing theories on El Niño formation, and may also contribute to its future prediction.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ocean Remote Sensing Institute, Ocean University of Qingdao, 5 Yushan Road, Qingdao 266003, China 2: Département d'Océanographie Spatiale, Centre de Brest, IFREMER, B.P.70, 29280 Plouzané, France 3: Institute of Océanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 7 Nanhai Road, Qingdao 266071, China

Publication date: December 15, 2001

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