Science: Windows on A Vast Frontier

Remote-sensing devices are revolutionizing the study of the seas

Laury Miller recalls with awe the moment he first saw the infrared image of the two cyclones. The picture, taken by a Japanese weather satellite, revealed two giant Pacific storms in temporary but exact alignment on opposite sides of the equator. That conjunction generated a massive burst of westerly winds across thousands of miles of the equatorial ocean, pushing a surge of warm water eastward. Miller, a Government oceanographer, abruptly realized he was looking at a mysterious natural engine that drives El Nino, the unruly fluctuation of weather that periodically afflicts places as widespread as South America, Asia, Alaska and Africa.

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