On the Prediction of the El Niño of 1986-1987

Barnett, Tim P.; Graham, Nicholas E.; Cane, Mark A.; Zebiak, Stephen E.; Dolan, Sean C.; O'Brien, James; Legler, David M.

Three different classes of numerical models successfully predicted the occurrence of the El Niño of 1986-87 at lead times of 3 to 9 months. Although the magnitude and timing of predicted ocean surface temperatures were not perfect, these results suggest that routine prediction of moderate to large El Niño events is feasible. The key to the success of the models lies in recognizing or simulating the low-frequency, large-scale changes in the tropical ocean-atmosphere system that give rise to El Niño events.


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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
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March 28, 2012