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NIÑO AND LA NIÑA PREDICTIONS
years ago, The world's climate went haywire. The Indian monsoon failed.
Fields in Australia burned in relentless heat and drought.
Crops withered in fertile parts of South America, while that continent's
coastal desert bloomed unexpectedly. California got twice its normal winter
rainfall and 18-foot waves swallowed beachfront houses.
NSF played a major role in supporting the basic research that led to the
Tropical Oceans Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program, which helped answer
the questions of how fundamental physical processes that couple or connect
the atmosphere work and how to make those processes predictable.
The main benefit, not only to those living in the U.S.A., but to anyone
around the world, is now more accurate and useful
predictions of El Niño/La Niña weather cycles can be conducted
up to two to three seasons, or about nine months in advance.
Predictions of El
Niño (the warming) and La Niña (the cooling) of tropical
Pacific Ocean watersare
now providing extra months of preparation, helping to lessen economic
and human losses that often result from these events.
In the early 1980s,meteorologists
by NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences, set out to test the hypothesis
that El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which includes
both El Niño and La Niña phases, can be predicted.
These scientists organized under the new program, TOGA, the first of the
U.S. Global Change initiatives. TOGA was a multiagency effort involving
NSF, NOAA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and
NSF's role began before TOGA, with support for the basic research that
led to the hypothesis that although weather cannot be predicted beyond
two weeks in advance, certain features of the Earth's climate can be predicted
with lead time of seasons and greater.