Modern oceanographic research in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean began during the 1950s. Klaus Wyrtki, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, compiled and synthesized data and results from the 1950s and 1960s, and published several summary papers on the oceanography of the eastern tropical Pacific (including Wyrtki, 1966; Wyrtki, 1967). These reviews give a broad summary of regional oceanography that has remained accurate and useful, although based on limited observations.
Scientific progress in the field and in the laboratory since the 1960s has greatly increased knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans. Although much of Wyrtki’s description of the eastern tropical Pacific remains valid today, there are physical and biological phenomena that were not understood or even known by 1960s oceanographers, for example mesoscale eddies, tropical instability waves, and interdecadal variability.
A set of review articles on the oceanography of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, has been published as a special issue of Progress in Oceanography (2006, vol. 69(2-4)). Wyrtki’s reviews are brought up to date in two ways: (1) new observations and tools have enhanced our understanding of features covered by Wyrtki, and (2) aspects of the oceanography of the region covered briefly or not at all by Wyrtki are reviewed. We emphasize oceanographic patterns of spatial and temporal variability, relationships between atmospheric forcing and ocean dynamics, physical-biological interactions, and linkages between temporal variability at seasonal, interannual, and longer time scales.
The review volume is dedicated to Professor Klaus Wyrtki (U. Hawaii), for the diligence and vision of his early review of eastern tropical Pacific oceanography and for his original research in the tropical Pacific in general. We also acknowledge the early work of those who provided the scientific basis for Wyrtki’s review, as well as the scientists of EASTROPAC who completed a unique survey of this important region of the global ocean.
Oceanographic research cruises in the eastern tropical Pacific