Climate Interactions among Ocean Basins

Written by: Carlos R. Mechoso


There is overwhelming evidence that climate interactions among ocean basins provide key contributions to global climate variability in a wide range of time scales. 

For example, it is accepted that El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events in the tropical Pacific Ocean have remote affects around the world, both on continents and on other ocean basins.  This conclusion is firmly rooted by many theoretical and modeling studies that have examined the effects of El Niño-type perturbations in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

However, it has also become clear that for a better understanding of climate anomalies during El Niño and specially to achieve the full power of prediction systems, climate anomalies in other oceans had to be taken into account.  Moreover, these anomalies in different oceans could interact and modulate themselves in important ways.

This realization has motivated an enormous amount of current research and the establishment of international scientific collaborations aimed to resolve outstanding questions.  The potential for improved climate predictions amply justifies these efforts.

The following are examples of such outstanding questions:

How independent is the Pacific El Niño from a similar phenomenon observed in the tropical Atlantic?

Are these interbasin interactions constant in time or have they varied in the past? If they have varied, are similar variations expected in the future?

Why are interactions between two ocean basins active in some periods and absent in others?

How are continental monsoons and other such climate events with a major impact on society affected by the interactions?

The figure below is a schematic view of the influences of each ocean basin on regional monsoon precipitation. Numbers on arrows indicate the calendar months for typical monsoon seasons in different regions. Contours in the figures are the annual mean sea surface temperature (SST), with 5/10/15/20/25/26/27/28/29°C values.  This figure is taken from a book recently published by Cambridge University Press. In the book, an international group of researchers surveys the current understanding of interactions among climate variability in ocean basins from concepts to model simulations and predictions.

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About the Author: Carlos R. Mechoso

Carlos R. Mechoso is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently Profesor Honorífico at the University Complutense, Madrid. He is author of more than 200 scientific publications, including pioneering contributions on numerical modeling of the coupled ...

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