Southern Oscillation

What is Southern Oscillation?

Southern Oscillation meaning (SO) – a “see-saw” in surface pressure in the tropical Pacific characterized by simultaneously opposite sea level pressure anomalies at Tahiti, in the eastern tropical Pacific and Darwin, on the northwest coast of Australia. The SO was discovered by Sir Gilbert Walker in the early 1920’s. Walker was among the first meteorologists to use the statistical techniques to analyze and predict meteorological phenomena. Later, the three-dimensional east-west circulation related to the SO was discovered and named the “Walker Circulation”. The SO oscillates with a period of 2-5 years. During one phase, when the sea level pressure is low at Tahiti and High at Darwin, the El Nino occurs. The cold phase of the SO, called “La Nina” by some, is characterized by high pressure in the eastern equatorial Pacific, low in the west, and by anomalously cold sea surface temperature (SST) in the central and eastern Pacific. This is called El Nino Southern Oscillation or ENSO.


reference: National Weather Service Glossary