8. 1982 El Niño: the worst there ever was

The 1982-83 El Niño was the strongest and most devastating of the century, perhaps the worst in recorded history. During that period, trade winds not only collapsed-they reversed direction. Its effects were long lasting as well. It caused weather-related disasters on almost every continent. Australia, Africa, and Indonesia suffered droughts, dust storms, and brush fires. Peru was hit with the heaviest rainfall in recorded history-11 feet in areas where 6 inches was the norm. California had very high rainfall and the year was characterized by extensive flooding and landsliding. The event was blamed for nearly 2,000 deaths and more than $13 billion in damage to property and livelihoods. During this period, the thermocline off the South American coast dropped to about 500 feet. On September 24, in just 24 hours, sea-surface temperatures along a coastal village in Peru shot up 7.2 degrees F.

The last diagram shows sea-surface temperature anomalies during the 1982-1983 El Niño.

Based on what you have learned about upwelling and El Niño in this lab, briefly describe the oceanic changes that occurred during this noteworthy year.


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