Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/358-1547) February 26, 1993 Mary Hardin Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (Phone: 818/354-5011) RELEASE: 93-39 SCIENTISTS FORESEE strengthening EL NINO EVENT Scientists studying data from the U.S.-French TOPEX/POSEIDON oceanographic spacecraft have observed an ocean phenomena in the equatorial Pacific that will strengthen the ongoing El Nino event off the western coast of South America. The scientists have been analyzing a prominent Kelvin wave that has appeared in recent TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter data. A Kelvin wave is a large warm water mass that moves along the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. These Kelvin wave pulses give rise to El Nino conditions in the eastern equatorial Pacific. The Kelvin wave pulse seen in the TOPEX/POSEIDON data also was predicted by the global ocean numerical models developed on supercomputers at the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C. The Kelvin wave pulse was excited by westerly wind anomalies in the western Pacific in December 1992 and is projected to arrive at the South American coast in late February or early March. The satellite data indicates an arrival in the early part of the window, while the Navy model points to a slightly later date. The imminent arrival of this Kelvin wave pulse suggests that the current warm conditions in the western Pacific will continue or possibly intensify during March.

The strengthening of the El Nino means that the weather conditions associated with it are likely to continue said Dr. Jim Mitchell of the Naval Research Laboratory. These conditions include wetter than normal weather in California, wetter and colder winters than normal in the eastern United States and warmer and dryer summers than normal across the southern hemisphere. - more -2Launched Aug. 10, 1992, TOPEX/POSEIDON also is addressing long-term climate issues. By mapping the circulation of the world's oceans over several years, scientists can better understand how oceans transport heat, influence the atmosphere and affect long-term climate, said Dr. Lee-Leung Fu of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. Dr. Fu is the TOPEX/POSEIDON Project Scientist for NASA. Data from TOPEX/POSEIDON is distributed monthly to more than 200 scientists around the world for their analysis. TOPEX/POSEIDON is the second satellite in NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, a comprehensive research program to study the Earth's environment as a global system. JPL manages the NASA portion of the mission for the Earth Science and Applications Division of the Office of Space Science and Applications, Washington, D.C. - end -