Some Recent Scientific Accomplishments in Predicting
Seasonal to Interannual Climate Fluctuations and Related Events
- The first year-in-advance predictions of the seasonal variations in
sea surface temperatures have been developed based on new knowledge about the
processes that link the tropical Pacific Ocean to the global atmosphere.
Similar predictions are now being issued regularly by several nations in
addition to the U.S., and are being used in agricultural and water resource
- The U.S. government is now issuing, on a monthly basis, the first-ever
year-in-advance forecasts of seasonal mean temperature and precipitation for
the United States. The forecasts are based on a blend of statistical and
physical coupled ocean-atmosphere models.
- USGCRP research results suggest that several recent severe weather
events in the U.S. may be related to El Niño-Southern Oscillation
(ENSO) conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. These include the drought and
heat wave in the eastern and central U.S. during the summer of 1988, the
floods in the midwest during the spring and summer of 1993, and the frequent
west coast storms during the early part of 1995. Analyses indicate that
conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are an important (but not sole)
factor influencing the atmospheric circulation patterns over the U.S.
- The economic benefits of improved forecasts of ENSO to the agricultural
sector of the southeast U.S. have been estimated as being $100 million per
year or more. The economic value of improved forecasts to other agricultural
regions is also likely to be large. This current assessment suggests that
research to support improved ENSO forecasting will bring significant benefits
to the nation.
- Medical research has linked changes in the incidence of diseases
carried by mosquitoes and rodents with changes in temperature, rainfall, and
the patterns of extreme climatic variations associated with El Niño
events. These findings have important implications for human health and
- Measurements of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and in
the surface waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean indicate that the 1992-93
El Niño event reduced the "normal" (non-El Niño) carbon dioxide
release to the atmosphere from this region of the ocean by more than 50
percent. This may be a contributing factor in explaining the slower rates of
increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide during that period.
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Last updated 04/12/96