Natural Climate Patterns

August 2009

  • The Southern Oscillation Index tracks differences in air pressure between the eastern and western sides of the tropical Pacific.

  • El Niño and La Niña conditions occur when abnormally warm or cool waters accumulate in tropical latitudes of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. The Oceanic Nino Index is the tool NOAA scienitsts use to watch for these temperature changes. 

  • Over the span of days or weeks, the strength of surface air pressure over the North Atlantic seesaws between Iceland and the Azores Islands. The shifting pressure reflects changes in atmospheric circulation that have a big impact on mid-latitude weather in the U.S. and Europe. 

  • The Arctic Oscillation (AO) refers to an atmospheric circulation pattern over the mid-to-high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The most obvious reflection of the phase of this oscillation is the north-to-south location of the storm-steering, mid-latitude jet stream.

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