News FocusAtmospheric Science

Does a Globe-Girdling Disturbance Jigger El Niño?

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Science  16 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5426, pp. 322-323
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5426.322

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An unpredictable atmospheric oscillation called the Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO could frustrate efforts to refine forecasts of El Niño. New modeling and empirical studies suggest that the MJO, which sends bursts of wind across the western Pacific every 30 to 60 days, can trigger an El Niño already poised to strike or intensify one by changing temperature patterns in the western Pacific. Unfortunately, that knowledge may not make monster El Niños much easier to call, because the intensity of the MJO remains unpredictable.