News FocusClimate Change

Big El Niños Ride the Back of Slower Climate Change

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Science  19 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5405, pp. 1108-1109
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5405.1108

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Climate modelers successfully anticipated the arrival of the 1997 El Niño, but they were blind-sided by its intensity. Now, by deconstructing the symphony of longer-term climatic cycles that play out in the Pacific Ocean, researchers have found clues to why this event and the powerful El Niño of 1982-83 were so severe. Other, slower cycles of ocean warming and cooling have tended to be at or near their peaks--in some cases unusually high peaks--since the 1970s. By preheating the Pacific, they boosted the intensity of the El Niños.