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El Niño

  • By: Peter Waylen
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a joint oceanic (El Niño) and atmospheric (Southern Oscillation) phenomenon spanning the equatorial Pacific and is one of the more important causes of global climate variability. Its first-order impacts are on the distribution of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and precipitation over the equatorial Pacific and environs. These changes in the locations of the vast quantities of energy stored in the ocean waters and their release to the atmosphere by means of latent heat during cloud formation are spread around the globe by a series of atmospheric linkages known as teleconnections. Differences in the speed of response of the atmospheric (rapid) and oceanic (slower) components of this coupled system ensure that it is intrinsically unstable, oscillating in a pseudoperiodic fashion ...

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