Nonlinear dynamics of the El Niño Southern Oscillation

By Axel Timmermann

University of Hawaii

You must login to access the full resource.

Published on


Currently, the strongest El Nino on record wreaks havoc across our planet, shifting global sea level and weather patterns and creating famines in South Africa and Central America. Other areas have experienced flooding which may have facilitated the outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus across parts of Brazil and the Dengue virus in Hawaii. 

Even though this event has led to massive disruptions of livelihoods and economies, many of its physical aspects still remain elusive: What caused its explosive growth in summer 2015? Why did a similar initial condition in 2014 trigger only a small event? Why are La Nina events weaker than El Nino events? What processes terminate El Nino events? How long can an El Nino last? These are crucial questions that need to be resolved to improve seasonal predictions of future climate anomalies in the tropical regions. 

My talk will address how concepts of nonlinear dynamical systems’ analysis can help to elucidate the underlying processes and timing of El Nino's growth and demise. The presentation will touch upon Combination modes, Nonlinear resonances, Global Bifurcations, Mixed Mode Oscillations, Noise-induced instabilities and forbidden return times. 

MCRN Colloquium on Monday, March 7, 2016, 4pm EST 


Monica Romeo

RENCI, UNC Chapel Hill