Westward traveling waves, with a period of 3 weeks and a wavelength of ∼1000 km, are observed intermittently in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (see cover). The waves were first detected in 1975 in satellite measurements of the sea surface temperature [Legeckis, 1977]. Since then, additional measurements (under the auspices of the NOAA program Equatorial Pacific Ocean Climate Studies (EPOCS)) with a variety of instruments—drifting buoys, current meters and temperature sensors on moorings, and inverted echo sounders—have provided considerable information about these waves and have confirmed the hypothesis that they are caused by instabilities associated primarily with the latitudinal shear of the surface currents near the equator [Philander, 1978a; Cox, 1980].
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