Jan 5 2013

El Niños Are Highly Unpredictable

El Niño events are not as predictable as scientists thought. The frequency and strength of the ocean-warming climate phenomenon

It’s in there. Corals collected on islands in the central Pacific reveal that the strength and frequency of the climate phenomenon commonly known as El Niño is highly unpredictable.
Credit: Gary Meek/Georgia Tech

were more variable during the 20th century than, on average, during the preceding 7000 years, according to new analyses of climate records locked within ancient corals. The finding largely discounts the idea that certain long-term variations in Earth’s orbit strongly influence the climate-maker, scientists say.

“This will be a shock for many paleoclimatologists,” says Axel Timmermann, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, in Honolulu who wasn’t involved in the new research. “[These findings] are a stark contrast to their ideas.”

El Niños are marked by substantially warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific. These events—along with their alter egos La Niñas, which are defined by cooler-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the same region—steer weather patterns across large swaths of the globe, baking some areas while drowning others. Together, these phenomena are called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In modern times, El Niños occur once every 2 to 7 years; sometimes they’re strong and long-lasting, and other times they’re brief and mild.

Read the full article here.

 

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