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Title : PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF RESEARCH ON EL NINO REPORTED AT AGU FALL MEETING Type : Press Release NSF Org: OD / LPA Date : December 3, 1993 File : pr9391x Cheryl Dybas December 3, 1993 (202) 357-9498 NSF PR 93-91 PRELIMINARY RESULTS OF RESEARCH ON EL NINO REPORTED AT AGU FALL MEETING In order to study the strong air-sea interaction occurring in the "warm pool" in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean -- which is responsible for the climate phenomenon called El Nino -- the TOGA (Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere) Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE), was conducted between November 1992 and February 1993. A striking finding of this National Science Foundation-funded research program was that a significant fraction of the heavy rainfall over the warm pool occurs from shallow clouds; this observation of so-called "warm rain" has important implications for modeling the atmosphere's response to cloud formation and precipitation. Results of the research will be presented at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco from December 6-10. The large range of atmospheric and oceanic conditions which were observed during COARE confirm previous hypotheses about the role of air-sea interaction in the warm pool system, and also provide an excellent database for future model development. Observations were made which are being used to directly and indirectly estimate the exchange of heat, moisture, and momentum between the atmosphere and ocean, with the objective of improving scientists' ability to model and predict the evolution of the warm pool system. Observations from COARE show that heavy rainfall events are responsible for salinity changes in the ocean which substantially modify upper ocean mixing, and thus heat and momentum exchanges. This is important for improvements to future predictions of the El Nino phenomenon, among other climate variations, where east-west displacements of the warm pool system play an important role. Leading up to the COARE experiment, El Nino conditions in the tropical Pacific were near normal, with slightly cold ocean conditions developing in the eastern equatorial Pacific. This led some El Nino forecast models to predict the development of a cold event during early 1993. However, the warm conditions returned in 1993, associated with an eastward migration of the warm pool system. TOGA COARE was conducted during the re-development of the El Nino, allowing an unprecedented sampling of the conditions in the western Pacific which may have led to this re-intensification. Scientists hope that these observations will help them understand why the model predictions failed, according to researcher Roger Lukas of the University of Hawaii. Pioneering observations of oceanic rainfall were made using Doppler weather radar on ships and on research aircraft. These observations provide the very elusive areal averages of precipitation needed to compute freshwater exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, as well as the detailed motions inside atmospheric systems. -end- The National Science Foundation is an independent agency of the federal government established in 1950 to promote and advance scientific progress in the United States. NSF accomplishes its mission primarily by competitively awarding grants to educational institutions for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. This and other information is available electronically on STIS, NSF's Science and Technology Information System. For more information about STIS contact the Publications Section at (202) 357-7861 and request the "STIS Flyer," NSF Publication #91-10, or send an E-mail message to stisinfo@nsf.gov (INTERNET) or stisinfo@NSF (BITNET).


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