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Assignment one:

The Southern Oscillation


1. Describe the principles of the Walker Circulation, and the
situation in the east and west Pacific under normal
conditions:

The Walker circulation is seen at the surface as easterly trade winds which
move water and air warmed by the sun towards the west. The western side of
the equatorial Pacific is characterized by warm, wet low pressure weather as the
collected moisture is dumped in the form of typhoons and thunderstorms. 1
Normally, the tropical western Pacific is warm and wet with a low pressure
system and the cool and dry eastern Pacific lie under a high pressure system.
This creates a pressure gradient from east to west and causes surface air to
move east to west, from high pressure in the eastern Pacific to low pressure in
the western Pacific. Higher up the atmosphere, west-to-east winds complete the
circulation.

2. Explain the factors


involved when the ENSO
index results in Normal
pressure variation across
the Pacific. An El Nino
event and A La Nina event.

Normally, the winds move seawater at


the ocean surface from eastern part of
the tropics in the pacific to the western
Pacific Ocean. Since the water is
moving west, cold deep water comes to
the surface in the eastern Pacific, a
process called upwelling. Western
Pacific has wet weather due to a low
pressure system and the Eastern pacific
has dry weather due to a high pressure
system. During El Nio events, the
difference in air pressure across the
Pacific shrinks, causing the winds to
weaken. Without wind pushing
seawater west, the warm water of the
western Pacific spreads east. Water
piles up in the eastern tropical Pacific, causing the ocean surface to become
higher. The extra water in the eastern Pacific causes the upwelling to weaken.
During La Nia the winds grow stronger across the Pacific because the low

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walker_circulation
pressure over the western Pacific and the high pressure over the central and
eastern Pacific both get larger. This causes more upwelling of ocean water in the
eastern Pacific.2

3. Describe the weather patterns experienced in New Zealand


under the influence of; El Nino and La Nina events:

El Nino events typically cause a development of thunderstorms and cyclones


which deliver heavy rain to tropical areas. In New Zealand, we experience
stronger or more frequent winds from the west during summer, leading to an
elevated risk of drier-than-normal conditions in east coast areas and more rain
than normal in the west due to the barrier effect between the Southern Alps and
the North island ranges. During winter, older southerly winds tend to prevail,
while in spring and autumn, south-westerlies tend to be stronger or more
frequent, bringing a mix of the summer and winter effects. During particularly
strong El Nio phases, these effects can be more intense.

La Nina has a different impact on New Zealand. There are more North-Easterly
winds which tend to bring about moist, rainy conditions to the North-East of the
North island, and reduced rainfall to the south and south-west of the South
island. Therefore, some areas, such as central Otago and South Canterbury, can
experience drought in both El Nio and La Nia. Warmer-than-normal
temperatures typically occur over much of the country during La Nia. Although,
there are regional and seasonal exceptions when it comes to La Nina events.

2 http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/enso.html3.
https://www.niwa.co.nz/climate/information-and-resources/elnino/elnino-impacts-on-
newzealand