The 1997/1998 El Niño: a record event. El Niño, out of the remote vastness of the tropical Pacific Ocean, connects many seemingly unrelated events all over the world and even makes them predictable to some extent. This has captured the imagination of the public. Seldom has a meteorological phenomenon attracted so much attention as the El Niño of 1997/1998.
It has not always been like this. The previous very strong El Niño was in 1982/1983. In September 1982, a group of scientists met in Princeton to discuss the El Niño phenomenon. They were unaware of the fact that one of the strongest El Niño's ever was developing. Only months later, after the peak of the El Niño, people realised something extraordinary had happened.
This was completely different during the 1997/1998 El Niño. Early 1997 several of the centres that issue El Niño forecasts were observing signs that an El Niño might be imminent. During the month of May, the spectacular onset of the El Niño could be followed real-time on the Internet. By July it was clear that it be would of extraordinary strength. El Niño was a central issue at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) meeting in August, and forecasts for unusual and possibibly catastrophic weather were issued to the public. The message came home. Television crews and journalists jumped on the subject, and soon millions of people were following the development of the 1997/1998 El Niño.
G Burgers, GJ van Oldenborgh. The 1997/1998 El Niño