Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unprecedented early warning of El Niño succeeds

19.03.2015

The current El Niño event has been predicted by an international team of scientists more than one year ago – earlier than ever before. This breakthrough in forecasting the most important phenomenon of natural climate variability has been enabled by novel approach of complex networks analysis of atmospheric temperature data from the Pacific. Such forecast can help farmers in Brazil, Australia or India to prepare and for instance seed the right crops. In an unusual move, the scientists had published their unprecedented early warning early on – fully aware of the reputational risks.

“While conventional methods are not able to yield a reasonably reliable El Niño prediction more than six months before the event, our method at least doubles the warning time,” says Armin Bunde of Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU) who along with his colleague Josef Ludescher led the study.


The current El Niño event

The team detected evidence for the current El Niño already in September 2013. Their forecast appeared in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences in February 2014, and was now proven to be right.

Predictions by other, much bigger models wobbled up and down and as late as November 2014 gave a likelihood of only 58 percent that an El Niño will arrive. In contrast, the new and early forecast was stable over the whole period before the event and provided a significantly higher probability of 75 percent.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only recently declared that El Niño arrived – the event started last year, but it has to last for some time to be officially recognized. Japan’s weather bureau saw the conditions fulfilled in December last year.

**Impacts can hit hard on farmers and fishermen**

The current El Niño is very weak and will likely not have the devastating impacts it had in other years. Yet some experts think that the tropical cyclone that sadly hit Vanuatu might now enhance westerly winds in the Pacific region – and this in turn might strengthen the El Niño. Remarkably, the new methodology was able to correctly anticipate the phenomenon despite the weak signal; it cannot predict the strength or duration of the event.

Peruvian fishermen dubbed the irregular warming of the Eastern Pacific ‘El Niño’, Spanish for ‘the Christ child’ or literally the ‘boy child’, because it usually appears every few years at some time around Christmas when the birth of Jesus is celebrated. It is part of a more general pattern of the Pacific ocean-atmosphere system called ENSO, which includes anomalous cold episodes called La Niña. In the past, it linked for instance to empty fishing-nets in Peru, but also floods in Ecuador and droughts in Australia, thus affecting farmers.

**Advancing insight into how the phenomenon comes about**

“The causes of this phenomenon are so far poorly understood – our methodology might now be the key to open a door to gain insight into the intricate mechanisms that trigger El Niño,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-author of the study and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Using data from more than 200 points in the Pacific, we see how interactions between distant sites are building up over time in the ocean-atmosphere-system, bringing about the warming events. It is like an orchestra of 200 musicians playing together. If the different regions in the Pacific are rather playing their own tunes, like soloists, no El Niño develops. So this is what we use to derive our warning. There's a harmony building up – which collapses when the event finally arrives. So physically this might be a resonance phenomenon.”

„What we do, using modern network approaches, is at the crossroads of mathematics and physics,“ says co-author Shlomo Havlin of the Bar-Ilan University of Israel. “When we used this data to hindcast El Niños of the past, we found that the alarms are correct in three times out of four – which is a lot, given the complexity of the phenomenon. Moreover, the algorithm our team developed already correctly predicted in 2011 that in 2012 there would be no El Niño, while officials up to September of that year said there would be such an event.” The scientists will now seek to further develop their methodology. The aim is to integrate more data in order to be able to forecast even the strength and the duration of the El Niños to come.

Article in which the warning for the current El Niño is published: Ludescher, J., Gozolchiani, A., Bogachev, M.I., Bunde, A., Havlin, S., Schellnhuber, H.J. (2014): Very early warning of next El Niño. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [DOI: 0.1073/pnas.1323058111]

Weblink to this article: www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/02/07/1323058111

Article in which the methodology is published: Ludescher, J., Gozolchiani, A., Bogachev, M.I., Bunde, A., Havlin, S., Schellnhuber, H.J. (2013): Improved El Niño frorecasting by cooperativity detection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1309353110]

Weblink to this article: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1309353110

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Jonas Viering, Sarah Messina
Phone: +49 331 288 2507
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

Prof. Dr. Armin Bunde
Institut für Theoretische Physik der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU)
Telefon: +49 641 99-33375
Mobil: +49 157 33 14 55 55
E-Mail: arminbunde00@googlemail.com

Jonas Viering | PIK Potsdam
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Research sheds new light on forces that threaten sensitive coastlines
24.04.2017 | Indiana University

nachricht NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Two-dimensional melting of hard spheres experimentally unravelled after 60 years

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecular libraries for organic light-emitting diodes

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>