Letter: Dance of the oceans

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Dance of the oceans

Across England and Wales, the drought may appear to be over (report, 4 February; letters, 7 February), but for how long?

Oceanographers and meteorologists are uncovering evidence that our weather may be heavily influenced by a climate fluctuation known as the North Atlantic Oscillation: our very own El Nino. The NAO appears to be linked to cycles in wind, temperature and rainfall in Europe. The late 1960s saw northerly winds and dry cold winters, followed - in the early 1990s - by westerly winds and relatively warm stormy winters. There are signs that we are now swinging back to colder winters again. This could also mean less rain.

The key to understanding these climate swings lies in the slow, stately dance of the oceans. The oceans store vast quantities of heat which is carried around the globe by an intricate network of currents linking all the major ocean basins in both hemispheres. We still comprehend little of the natural variability of this ocean conveyor belt, never mind how robust it is to human interference.

If we are to have any hope of usefully predicting future weather and climate patterns, a long-term commitment to oceanographic research would be a wise step to take.

DAVID CROMWELL

Southampton Oceanography Centre

Southampton, Hampshire

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