In the early 1900s, British meteorologist Sir Gilbert Walker gathered weather information from stations around the world.

Sir Gilbert Walker
Sir Gilbert Walker

Deser: “And he had teams of people analyzing the data by hand and found remarkable linkages between Iceland, Spain and Portugal.”

That’s Clara Deser of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. She says scientists now call these long-distance relationships “teleconnections” and know they’re caused by winds that connect the weather in one place to another.

Weather images

Teleconnections help scientists predict the weather. For example we know that El Niño, which starts with warmer water in the tropical Pacific, will affect temperature and precipitation across North America. But now, Deser says scientists believe climate change will shift the location of these teleconnections – and even alter their strength.

Deser: “As the planet warms, the warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air, and so a teleconnection pattern that brings heavier rainfall to one part of the country, we’ll just say California, that impact will intensify.”

What ‘teleconnections’ means for weather and climate. Click To Tweet

Exactly how a warming climate will change these global teleconnections is currently an area of intense scientific research.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Sir Gilbert Walker (source: Walker Institute). Weather photo (copyright protected).

More Resources
How ENSO leads to a cascade of global impacts
El Niño and southern oscillation (ENSO): A review
Southern Oscillation Index
The North Atlantic Oscillation

Topics: Weather Extremes