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Teleconnections: Climate events are deeply connected across the globe

Climate change has rapidly increased the frequency of extreme weather events worldwide, from wildfires to floods. However, a recent study emphasizes that these events are not merely random occurrences but deeply interconnected phenomena. 

This interconnected climate behavior, termed “teleconnections,” remains a relatively unexplored field but holds the key to a comprehensive understanding of our intricate climate system.

To investigate, a team of experts developed a novel climate network analysis method. The research is shedding new light on the intensity, distribution, and evolution of these teleconnections.

Domino effect 

“Teleconnections describe how climate events in one part of the world can affect weather thousands of kilometers away,” explained Jingfang Fan of Beijing Normal University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Think of it as a domino effect on a global scale.”

“Within just five years, we may see temperatures rising to levels that global scientists have been warning us about. It’s like the planet is running a fever that’s steadily getting worse.”

Climate networks

But what are climate networks? Imagine a map where specific data points represent locations. The connections or links between these points highlight similarities. 

The team’s innovative method combines the directions and distribution patterns of these teleconnections. 

Meaningful patterns 

Based on global daily surface air temperature data and advanced data processing techniques and mathematical algorithms, the team has identified meaningful patterns and insights.

“Our work uncovered patterns in climate events driven mainly by atmospheric Rossby waves, which are large inertial planetary waves that naturally occur in rotating fluids and cause movement within the atmosphere,” said Fan.

Teleconnection intensity

Through this research, the team pinpointed regions like southeastern Australia and South Africa as being especially sensitive to these interconnected events. 

The experts found that the strength of these interconnections has amplified over time (from 1948 to 2021), potentially influenced by a combination of climate change, human activities, and other variables. 

Moreover, the last 37 years have seen a more pronounced increase in the Southern Hemisphere’s teleconnection impact and intensity.

Study implications 

This research offers a fresh perspective on measuring and examining climate teleconnections. It will serve as a foundation to identify regions that may face increased risks in the future. The ultimate goal is to devise strategies to address these challenges.

“The next step is like weather forecasting – but on steroids,” said Fan. “Using what we’ve learned, we plan to predict how climate events will unfold and connect. We’re diving deep to explore why these events happen and how various climate ‘tipping points’ within our climate system might be linked.”

More about teleconnections 

Teleconnections refer to circumstances where climate anomalies or weather events in one part of the world can influence weather patterns in distant, often remote, locations. 

Essentially, it is the interrelationship of meteorological patterns across vast distances. This interconnected behavior plays a crucial role in understanding global climate variations and can have widespread implications on weather, agriculture, water resources, and more.

How do teleconnections work?

Atmospheric waves

At the heart of teleconnections are atmospheric waves, such as the atmospheric Rossby waves. These are large-scale waves in the atmosphere that play a vital role in the Earth’s weather. They form due to the Earth’s rotation and temperature differences between the equator and the poles.

Oceanic phenomena

Oceans also play a part in teleconnections. Events like El Niño and La Niña in the Pacific Ocean can cause weather pattern changes far from their origin. For instance, an El Niño event can lead to wetter conditions in parts of the U.S. and drier conditions in parts of Australia.

Examples of teleconnections

North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)

This is a fluctuation in atmospheric pressure at sea level between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. Its phases can influence winter weather in Europe and the East Coast of the U.S.

Pacific North American Pattern (PNA) 

Influenced by sea surface temperature anomalies, PNA affects climate patterns across North America.

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

Perhaps the most widely recognized teleconnection, ENSO has phases of El Niño (warmer) and La Niña (cooler) that influence global weather patterns.


Weather forecasting

Understanding teleconnections can improve long-range weather forecasting by providing insights into how patterns in one location might impact distant areas.


Predicting rainfall, temperature changes, or drought conditions can help farmers plan their crops accordingly.

Water resource management

Recognizing teleconnection patterns can aid in predicting periods of heavy rainfall or drought, allowing for better water resource planning.

Climate change studies

As our climate changes, the strength and patterns of teleconnections might also shift. This can have cascading effects on weather patterns globally.

The study is published in the journal Chaos,

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