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Biological Oceanography Group

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1997-1998 El Niņo Studies off the West Coast

Francisco Chavez


Anomalous trade winds in the western tropical Pacific were observed in late 1996 and then again in February-March 1997. The anomalous winds continued and  forced the onset of a strong El Niņo event. The rate of development of the 1997-98 El Niņo exceeds anything observed in recent history, including the very strong 1982-83 El Niņo, considered the event of the century. 

California El Niņo effects lag those along the equator and the strongest oceanographic anomalies are expected in Spring and Summer of 1998. We propose to test the hypotheses that: 1) a significant portion of the California El Niņo signal is propagated from the tropics via the ocean; 2) the strongest anomalies in the "biological pump" are found in the coastal transition zone (~100-200 km from shore); and 3) particulate flux variations along the coast of California are coherent from Monterey to Point Concepcion. The 1997-98 El Niņo provides an unprecedented opportunity that may not be realized for decades or perhaps even centuries. 
Coordinated efforts to study the El Niņo effects along the West Coast are reported in this site. In the first week of December 1999 an El Niņo Workshop was held at the MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute). 

Data Atlas - Enter here to view El Niņo data

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Last Updated: 28 April, 2004