Hoerling, M. P., and A. Kumar, 2003: The perfect ocean for drought. Science, 299, 691-694.


The 1998-2002 droughts spanning the United States, southern Europe, and Southwest Asia were linked through a common oceanic influence. Cold sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern tropical Pacific and warm SSTs in the western tropical Pacific and Indian oceans were remarkably persistent during this period. Climate models show that the climate signals forced separately by these regions acted synergistically, each contributing to widespread mid-latitude drying: an ideal scenario for spatially expansive, synchronized drought. The warmth of the Indian and west Pacific oceans was unprecedented and consistent with greenhouse gas forcing. Some implications are drawn for future drought.