Results are presented from a 35-year integration of a coupled ocean-atmosphere model. Both ocean and atmosphere are two-level, nonlinear primitive equations models. The global atmospheric model is forced by a steady, zonally symmetric Newtonian heating. The ocean model is solved in a rectangular tropical basin. Heat fluxes between ocean and atmosphere are linear in air-sea temperature differences, and the interfacial stress is proportional to lower-level atmospheric winds.
The coupled models produce ENSO-like variability on time scales of 3 to 5 years. Since there is no external time-dependent forcing, these are self-sustained vacillations of the nonlinear system. It is argued that the energetics of the vacillations is that of unstable coupled modes and that the time scale is crucially dependent on the effects of ocean waves propagating in a closed basin.