The linked El Niño-La Niña climate cycle on the west coast of
Latin America causes periodic bouts of severe damage over thousands
of miles. Now scientists can predict more accurately and further
ahead when it will happen again.
Climate scientists say they have discovered a better way of
forecasting when a periodic and very damaging climate disruption
will occur in the eastern Pacific.
The disruption is called an El Niño event, and it is closely
linked to severe weather in Latin America and thousands of miles
further away, as far as Australia, Africa and North America.
The German-led team says its new forecasting approach will
provide not only earlier but also more reliable forecasts of when
an El Niño event will happen.
El Niño ("the child" in Spanish, the name given to the
phenomenon in reference to the Christ child, because it usually
appears around Christmas) and its counterpart, La Niña, are
intricately connected with climate change, though theories vary on
exactly how they are linked.
The new approach adopted by the researchers, led by the Justus Liebig
University in the German town of Giessen, employs network
analysis (a technique used for mathematical analysis of a network
of interconnected components). They describe it as "a cutting-edge
methodology at the crossroads of physics and mathematics".
To extend their forecasts from six months to a year or longer,
the scientists are using something called advanced connectivity
analysis, an approach used by complex system science. Building on
high-quality air temperature data, they have found it outperforms