Model Forecasts of the Tropical Pacific

What will climate conditions around the world be like for the rest of this year? Some researchers are predicting an El Niño will arrive in the spring of 2002. The false-color image above represents a one-day snapshot of what conditions will be like on April 1, 2002, as predicted by a sophisticated NASA computer model. Developed by NASA’s Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction Program (NSIPP), this model actually links together three models in one—one each for geophysical dynamics within the atmosphere, oceans, and lands. This animation shows what the NSIPP model’s predicts global climate conditions will be like every day for an entire year, starting on Feb. 1, 2002. Please note that these predictions are experimental and are produced for research purposes only. Use of these forecasts for purposes other than research is not recommended.

In the these images, the colors in the ocean represent changes from average surface temperature. Yellow and red pixels show where the model predicts there will be warmer-than-average temperatures. Light blue and dark blue shows cooler-than-average temperatures. Grey indicates the temperatures will remain average. The colors on land represent variation in soil moisture. Dark brown hues show where the mode predicts the soil will be drier than normal and greens show where it will be wetter than normal. Again, grey hues indicate an average soil wetness.

As can be seen in the animation, the NSIPP model predicts that while there will likely be relatively small pockets of warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the strong prevailing trade winds will continue pushing these waters westward. The model predicts that the trade winds, coupled with the strong upwelling of deep, very cold waters off the northwestern coast of South America, will effectively prevent the onset of El Niño.

Understanding and predicting seasonal-to-interannual climate variations is essential in the overall NASA strategy for climate research. The NSIPP program uses satellite remote sensing data together with measurements from field experiments to develop and refine its computer models. Scientists use these models in a number of international climate research programs in an effort to better understand how the Earth’s climate system works. In particular, NSIPP seeks to better understand and predict those climate variations that have social and economic impacts on the United States.

Image and animation courtesy NASA Seasonal-to-Interannual Pediction Project