In DepthClimate

How a ‘Godzilla’ El Niño shook up weather forecasts

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Science  24 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6293, pp. 1501-1502
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6293.1501

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The 14-month El Niño climate event that ended this month brought impacts across the globe, from wildfires in Indonesia to drought in Peru. The main drivers of El Niño conditions, ocean temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific, were as high as 3°C above the average, making this event one of the three most intense El Niños on record. For the most part, forecasts of its impacts on weather patterns were borne out, but forecasters fared relatively poorly in California, which relies on El Niños to deliver rains to parched areas. Along the U.S. West Coast, the jet stream was shifted hundreds of kilometers north last winter, which had the effect of dousing the Pacific Northwest with extraordinary precipitation while Southern California experienced its fourth straight year of drought. Now, scientists are analyzing why their climate models were blindsided and how they can be improved.