National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1991

Episodes of surface westerly winds as observed from islands in the western tropical Pacific

Harrison, D.E., and B.S. Giese

J. Geophys. Res., 96(Suppl.), 3221–3237, doi: 10.1029/90JC01775 (1991)

We describe the characteristics of surface westerly wind episodes in the tropical Pacific between mid-1957 and 1980, as they can be determined from a collection of daily average wind records from islands. Several types of frequency of occurrence and duration statistics are presented; events in which the maximum westerly anomalies exceed 7 m s−1 are not common, but are prominent in the records. There is strong seasonal and geographical variation in frequency of occurrence. Four types of westerly episodes are found; we call them types N, C, S, or FS, according to whether the maximum westerly wind is found north of, centered on, south of, or "far south" of the equator near the international date line. Sixteen, 45, 47, and 47 events of type N, C, S, and FS are identified, respectively. The strongest westerly winds are associated with type C and S events; maximum daily average values can exceed 20 m s−1. Only type C and S events are found to have substantial equatorial zonal wind anomalies. Several examples of type C and S events are presented. Composite events of each type have been computed, and their characteristics are described. In order to explore relationships between equatorial westerly events and cyclones, all of the named tropical cyclones within a region encompassing the near-date line islands have been identified; various statistics are presented, but no absolute relationships have been identified. The similarity between the composite type C and S anomaly patterns and patterns of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation monthly mean zonal wind anomaly previously documented in the literature is striking; evidently, the westerly events often dominate in the monthly average anomaly.

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