The study of networks has recently exploded into a major research tool in many areas of science. The discovery of “small world” and scale-free networks has led to many new insights about the collective behavior of a large number of interacting agents and complex systems. Here we introduce the basic ideas behind networks, as well as some initial applications of networks to the climate system. Our results suggest that the climate system exhibits aspects of small-world networks as well as scale-free networks, with supernodes corresponding to major teleconnection patterns. This result suggests that the organization of teleconnections may play a role in the stability of the climate system. In addition, preliminary work suggests that temporal changes in the network's architecture may be used to identify signatures of global change. These and other applications suggest that networks provide a new tool for investigating and reconstructing climate dynamics from both models and observations.

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Department of Mathematical Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences Group, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin