Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 14.2
FY95 12.2
FY96 11.5

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Natural variability
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understanding (100%)

Organizational Component:
Directorate for Geosciences Physical Oceanography
Division of Ocean Sciences
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Sanker Rao Mopodevi
Phone: 703-306-1527
E-Mail: smopide@nsf.gov

Research Goals:
To investigate seasonal-to-interannual variability of the coupled tropical ocean- global atmosphere system in order to determine and understand its controlling physical processes and its predictability and to apply this knowledge to climate prediction.

Research Description:
The TOGA focus has been on the Pacific where the primary interannual signal, ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), is the strongest. The best known ENSO phenomenon is the strong warming of coastal waters off the west coast of South America, which has significant and frequently devastating effects on local fisheries and which may affect both local and global weather and climate patterns, particularly precipitation and storm patterns. The TOGA Program meets its objectives with research studies on specific mechanisms and processes of air-sea interaction, research on coupled ocean-atmosphere models, and with an observational system that now routinely monitors the equatorial Pacific. For example, the ability to watch the development of the 1986-87 event was impressive and unprecedented. This real-time monitoring system is expected to continue as part of the Global Ocean Observing System. TOGA COARE (Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment) recently completed a highly successful international (18 countries) field project. TOGA COARE examined ocean-atmosphere exchanges over the western Pacific warm pool where ENSO events originate. TOGA advances also include the demonstration of a useful predictive capability for ENSO and the establishment of the rudimentary elements of an operational data assimilation and prediction system. As the ten-year (1985-1994) TOGA program comes to an end, national and international plans request follow-up programs to build on its successes. Internationally, CLIVAR (A Study of CLImate VARiability and Predictability) is a new WCRP Program (World Climate Research Program) designed to extend the research emphasis on climate variability and predictability to the global domain over short (seasonal-to-interannual) and long (decadal-to-century) time scales. Nationally, GOALS (Global Ocean-Atmosphere- Land System) is proposed as the US contribution to the seasonal-to-interannual focus of CLIVAR. Oversight and evaluation of the US component of the program is provided through the TOGA Panel and the Climate Research Committee of the National Academy of Sciences.

Program Interfaces:
In the U.S., the principal players are NOAA and NSF, with NASA contributing to studies of surface fluxes and coupled ocean-atmosphere models and ONR contributing to process studies. Internationally, TOGA is a major member of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). It is also supported by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and ICSU's Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR). Fifteen countries are primary contributors to TOGA. Representatives of the international community met in Geneva in May, 1986, to discuss potential resources commitments to be applied to WCRP programs, including TOGA. An Intergovernmental TOGA Board (ITB) was subsequently approved by both WMO and IOC, to be responsible for implementing these commitments. The primary beneficiaries are the natural resource (agriculture and fisheries) managers in the countries in the tropics.

Program Milestones:
(1) Expand the TOGA domain to a global domain through the implementation of CLIVAR (A Study of CLImate VARiability and Predictability)and GOALS (Global Ocean- Atmosphere-Land System) by 1997. (2) Improved predictions of climatic and meteorological events, such as the monsoons, the frequency of tropical storms in relation to El Niño and weather and climate events in mid-latitudes by the year 2000.

Policy Payoffs:
U.S. and international policies related to the climate's natural variability and its impacts on societal structures have directly benefited from these endeavors. For example, short-term (6 months to a year) ENSO predictions are now used by several countries to reduce crop failures and livestock death during severe droughts. Measurements of sea level changes have proven to be a useful predictor of fishery abundance surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. Coastal states will be interested in improved predictions of the frequency of tropical storms in relation to El Niño.