Weather forecasts from ocean memory


  • Elaine Friebele


Predicting the weather more than a few weeks ahead is nearly impossible because atmospheric conditions change so rapidly. But results of a new computer model suggest that scientists may be able to predict 10-year climatic trends for Europe and western Asia. The model, developed by Stephen M. Griffies of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., and Kirk Bryan, of Princeton University, showed that long-term forecasts can be made using data from the ocean's “memory” of climatic changes.

The North Atlantic and the overlying atmosphere are major influences on the climate of Europe and western Asia. In contrast to the atmosphere, the oceans react slowly to physical fluctuations and retain a memory of climatic changes. Because the historical record of oceanic conditions is short, the researchers used a coupled ocean-atmosphere model to generate a suite of possible climate scenarios in the North Atlantic.