A meteorological overview of the second Pacific Exploratory Mission in the Tropics


  • Henry E. Fuelberg,

  • Reginald E. Newell,

  • David J. Westberg,

  • Joseph C. Maloney,

  • John R. Hannan,

  • Brian D. Martin,

  • Melody A. Avery,

  • Yong Zhu


Meteorological conditions over the central Pacific Basin are summarized during NASA's second Pacific Exploratory Mission in the Tropics (PEM-B) which was conducted during February-April 1999. Mean flow patterns during PEM-B are described. Important features near the surface include subtropical anticyclones, the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ), and the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The ITCZ is found to exhibit a double structure, with branches at ∼5°N and ∼5°S. Both the ITCZ and SPCZ are areas of widespread cloudiness and convection. Extensive lightning occurs over the land masses surrounding the Pacific Basin and over the central South Pacific Ocean itself. PEM-B occurs during a La Nina period of relatively cold sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific. Compared to climatology, the PEM-B period exhibits deep convection located west of its typical position, stronger than normal easterly trade winds, a relatively strong (weak) northern (southern) hemispheric jet stream, the SPCZ located west of its normal position, and an upper tropospheric cyclonic wind couplet that straddles the equator. Circulation patterns during PEM-B are compared with those of PEM-A which occurred during August-September 1996. PEM-B is found to exhibit a less organized ITCZ, a comparatively weak jet stream in the Southern Hemisphere, a relatively strong jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere, and enhanced convection over the central Pacific. Finally, meteorological conditions for selected flights are discussed utilizing streamlines, 10-day backward trajectories, thermodynamic soundings, and satellite imagery. Air parcels sampled by the aircraft are found to originate or pass over diverse regions, including Asia, South America, southern Africa, and Australia. Some parcels remain over the Pacific Ocean during the preceding 10-day period.