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A curious Pacific wave...harbinger of El Nino??

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  • b1blancer_29501
    March 5, 2002: Somewhere on a beach in Ecuador or Peru, someone is out for stroll. A warm breeze is blowing, water laps at their feet. It s paradise. But
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2002
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      March 5, 2002: Somewhere on a beach in Ecuador or Peru, someone is
      out for stroll. A warm breeze is blowing, water laps at their feet.
      It's paradise.

      But something is amiss. The air is a bit warmer than usual. So is the
      water. And, for weeks now, tides have been cresting a few inches
      higher. Maybe only frequent beach-walkers would notice the
      difference, but the changes are real.

      These countries have just been hit by a gentle yet massive swell of
      warm water -- a so-called "Kelvin wave."

      "Kelvin waves are warm bumps in the Pacific Ocean," says JPL
      oceanographer Bill Patzert. They form around Indonesia and travel
      east toward the Americas. "A typical Kelvin wave is 5 or 10 cm high,
      hundreds of kilometers wide, and a few degrees warmer than
      surrounding waters."

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      Usually not much happens when a Kelvin wave arrives -- beach combers
      experience a bit of extra rain, perhaps, and slightly warmer surf.
      Nevertheless, scientists pay careful attention to them because these
      gentle waves occasionally herald something far more powerful: the
      next El Niño.

      ....

      Both TAO and TOPEX/Poseidon have tracked the latest Kelvin wave since
      it formed near Indonesia in Dec. 2001. "The wave crossed the Pacific
      in January and reached South America in February," says Patzert. Not
      all Kelvin waves manage to cross the vast Pacific -- but this one
      did. It reminds Patzert of another notable Kelvin wave: "It looks a
      lot like one that crossed the Pacific in early 1997 -- just before
      the last El Niño."


      More at :
      http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/05mar_kelvinwave.htm?
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