A Theory for El Niño and the Southern Oscillation

Science  31 May 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4703, pp. 1085-1087
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4703.1085


A coupled atmosphere-ocean model is presented for El Niño and the Southern Oscillation that reproduces its major features, including its recurrence at irregular intervals. The interannual El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle is maintained by deterministic interactions in the tropical Pacific region. Ocean dynamics alter sea-surface temperature, changing the atmospheric heating; the resulting changes in surface wind alter the ocean dynamics. Annually varying mean conditions largely determine the spatial pattern and temporal evolution of El Niño events.