Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

El Niño And Climate More Predictable Than Previously Thought

Date:
October 23, 1998
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Fluctuations in the earth's climate from year to year, such as those that are associated with El Niño, are considerably more predictable than had been previously believed, according to a paper appearing in this week's issue of Science.

Fluctuations in the earth's climate from year to year, such as those that are associated with El Niño, are considerably more predictable than had been previously believed, according to a paper appearing in this week's issue of Science. The research was jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NOAA, and NASA.

"For more than 30 years, the so-called 'butterfly effect' has been the dominant paradigm for weather forecasting," says scientist J. Shukla of the George Mason University Center for Ocean-Land-Atmospheric Studies (COLA), lead author of the Science paper. "It has now been demonstrated that there are important exceptions to the 'butterfly effect' and that certain aspects of climate are far more predictable than previously thought."

The "butterfly effect" is a reference to the chaotic nature of day-to-day atmospheric fluctuations, explains Jay Fein, director of NSF's climate dynamics program, which funds COLA research. Such weather events cannot be predicted precisely beyond one to two weeks in the future. For several decades, the prevailing view in scientific circles was that it was not possible to predict weather and climate variations beyond this intrinsic limit. Research by Shukla and his colleagues at COLA has shown that, although weather cannot be predicted beyond a few days away, atmospheric circulation and precipitation, averaged for an entire season, are potentially predictable. "Indeed, there is predictability in the midst of chaos," Shukla says. "We now have a scientific basis for climate prediction, and that suggests that the large scale effects of all future major El Niño events should be predictable several months in advance."

Seasonal averages especially in the tropics are most predictable because the tropical atmosphere responds directly to slowly varying conditions at the earth's surface. Shukla and his colleagues at COLA have run models of the global climate to show that seasonal mean weather conditions are determined by sea surface temperature, soil wetness, vegetation and snow cover. In particular, variations in sea surface temperature such as those that are associated with El Niño can significantly alter weather in the tropics for an entire season, or longer.

High predictability of the tropical atmosphere can also enhance the predictability of the North American region. Shukla says that if changes in the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature are large, the seasonal average atmospheric circulation over the north Pacific and North America is also highly predictable.

"It is no accident that seasonal predictions made by several research groups around the world for last winter (1997 - 1998) were quite accurate," Shukla points out. "Those unprecedented forecasts were just the first examples of the accurate predictions of major El Niño events. We can expect more such in the future."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "El Niño And Climate More Predictable Than Previously Thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981023072602.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (1998, October 23). El Niño And Climate More Predictable Than Previously Thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981023072602.htm
National Science Foundation. "El Niño And Climate More Predictable Than Previously Thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981023072602.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) — A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins