Enhancing the accuracy, precision, and usefulness of ENSO forecasts for disaster risk reduction

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Aideen Foley

Department of Geography, BBK

Aideen Foley's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Ilan Kelman

Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, UCL

Ilan Kelman's Profile Picture

Project Description:

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasts are seen by many decision-makers as providing an opportunity to prepare for adverse consequences like flood and drought, frequently associated with ENSO phases. But, while the onset of El Niño may be predicted with some skill, societal and ecological impacts are based largely on past experience. Forecasting and identification of El Niño episodes also largely rests on the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI), a measure of the departure from normal sea surface temperature in the east-central Pacific Ocean, yet multiple interactions among ENSO and other teleconnections such as the Indian Ocean Dipole (10D) and Madden-Julian Oscillations (MJO) are reported in the literature.

This project will evaluate the potential to enhance the quality and credibility of ENSO forecasting by incorporating these dynamic linkages. In particular, the project will assess forecasting for ‘almost El Niño’ events like 1993, which do not meet the ONI threshold to be categorised as El Niño, yet may still spawn adverse teleconnections, and ‘El Niño that wasn’t’ events like 2014, in which forecasted conditions did not manifest.

The project will draw on long-term teleconnection indices extracted from sea surface temperature and mean sea level pressure data, as well as local weather and climate data, to assess whether specific combinations of teleconnection indices can provide better early warning in these cases.

Policy Impact of Research:

The project will enhance ENSO early warning systems and improve communication with decision-makers.

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