National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

ENSO as an integrating concept in earth science

McPhaden, M.J., S.E. Zebiak, and M.H. Glantz

Science, 314(5806), 1740–1745, doi: 10.1126/science.1132588 (2006)

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle of alternating warm El Niño and cold La Niña events is the dominant year-to-year climate signal on Earth. ENSO originates in the tropical Pacific through interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, but its environmental and socioeconomic impacts are felt worldwide. Spurred on by the powerful 1997-1998 El Niño, efforts to understand the causes and consequences of ENSO have greatly expanded in the past few years. These efforts reveal the breadth of ENSO’s influence on the Earth system and the potential to exploit its predictability for societal benefit. However, many intertwined issues regarding ENSO dynamics, impacts, forecasting, and applications remain unresolved. Research to address these issues will not only lead to progress across a broad range of scientific disciplines but also provide an opportunity to educate the public and policy makers about the importance of climate variability and change in the modern world.

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