During the most recent period in Earths past with a climate warmer than today, the tropical Pacific was in a stable state of El Niño-like conditions, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Whether this represents a likely scenario for the future, given the current rise in global temperatures, is uncertain. Nevertheless, the study has important implications for scientists trying to understand the global climate system and how it might respond to global warming, the researchers said.
El Niño is a temporary disruption of normal circulation patterns in the ocean and atmosphere in the tropical Pacific, with important consequences for weather around the globe. Because the system always returns to the normal circulation patterns after an El Niño event, many scientists have considered these patterns to be the only state in which the system can remain stable over long periods of time. The new study, published this week in the journal Science, shows that there is another stable state for the ocean-atmosphere system that is dramatically different from todays.
Tim Stephens | EurekAlert!
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