Scientists working at NYU Abu Dhabi have developed a sophisticated new theoretical model that may lead to more timely, accurate forecasts of the central Pacific El Niño (CP El Niño), an important global weather-maker.
"You have to say 'the potential for better forecasts'," said Andrew Majda, professor of mathematics and atmosphere/ocean science and principal investigator at NYUAD's Center for Prototype Climate Modeling (CPCM) because achieving practical forecasting will still "require an effort of several years." But the next steps have already started, some of them at the CPCM in Abu Dhabi.
Any El Niño is a period of warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific. These anomalies, and the related air pressure fluctuations, can have teleconnections – long-distance effects – on weather far away from the region directly affected. CP El Niño events can last for years, and have been "very frequent in the last 25 years," Majda said, although it's not possible to link the increased frequency to climate change.
CP El Niño, located far from any continental shore, is linked to severe weather around the globe including massive rainfall in the southeastern US, drought in California and Asia, and most notably the yearly Indian monsoon, which can lead to life-giving harvests but also deadly floods.