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D. Improving Global Forecast Systems

Narrator: This is Science Today. You may have wondered how climatologists so accurately predicted this winter's El Nino so far in advance. Tim Barnett, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, says they looked back at the devastating El Nino storms of the early eighties using a high resolution computerized system.

Barnett: What we did with the high resolution system, we went back and looked at 1982 and 83 and we played this entire game through the computer as if we didn't know what was happening and we ended up being able to do a very good job of predicting what the seasonal distribution of rainfall, which was surprising. I never thought we would be able to do as well as we did. And of course, we have the information, we know happened, so we can see how well our model works and then in the future, we'll have an idea and put confidence in it or not.

Narrator: Barnett says a big part of the forecasting success today is better technology.

Barnett: The people that built computer models of the oceans and the atmosphere. In 1982 they really were not very good and now they're getting to where they're quite realistic.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.