The moon and El Ninõ

Randall Cerveny, J. A. Shaffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Regional climates around the world display cycles corresponding to the 18.61-year maximum lunar declination (MLD) periodicity. We suggest that these cycles are created by a relationship between MLD and El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Both equatorial Pacific sea-surface temperature and South Pacific atmospheric pressure significantly correlate with maximum lunar declination. Low MLDs are associated with warmer equatorial Pacific sea-surface temperatures and negative values of the Southern Oscillation Index. A lunar-influenced change in the Pacific gyre circulation presents a viable physical mechanism for explaining these relationships. We suggest that the gyre is enhanced by tidal forces under high MLDs, inducing cold-water advection into the equatorial region but is restricted by the weak tidal forcing of low MLDs thereby favoring El Niño episodes. An astronomical model utilizing this relationship produces a forecast of increased non-El Niño (either La Niña or neutral) activity for the early part of this decade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-28
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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