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Agus Santoso, Harry Hendon, Andrew Watkins, Scott Power, Dietmar Dommenget, Matthew H. England, Leela Frankcombe, Neil J. Holbrook, Ryan Holmes, Pandora Hope, Eun-Pa Lim, Jing-Jia Luo, Shayne McGregor, Sonja Neske, Hanh Nguyen, Acacia Pepler, Harun Rashid, Alex Sen Gupta, Andréa S. Taschetto, Guomin Wang, Esteban Abellán, Arnold Sullivan, Maurice F. Huguenin, Felicity Gamble, and Francois Delage

Abstract

El Niño and La Niña, the warm and cold phases of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), cause significant year-to-year disruptions in global climate, including in the atmosphere, oceans, and cryosphere. Australia is one of the countries where its climate, including droughts and flooding rains, is highly sensitive to the temporal and spatial variations of ENSO. The dramatic impacts of ENSO on the environment, society, health, and economies worldwide make the application of reliable ENSO predictions a powerful way to manage risks and resources. An improved understanding of ENSO dynamics in a changing climate has the potential to lead to more accurate and reliable ENSO predictions by facilitating improved forecast systems. This motivated an Australian national workshop on ENSO dynamics and prediction that was held in Sydney, Australia, in November 2017. This workshop followed the aftermath of the 2015/16 extreme El Niño, which exhibited different characteristics to previous extreme El Niños and whose early evolution since 2014 was challenging to predict. This essay summarizes the collective workshop perspective on recent progress and challenges in understanding ENSO dynamics and predictability and improving forecast systems. While this essay discusses key issues from an Australian perspective, many of the same issues are important for other ENSO-affected countries and for the international ENSO research community.

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