A coupled ocean-atmosphere data assimilation procedure yields improved forecasts of El Nino for the 1980s compared with previous forecasting procedures. As in earlier forecasts with the same model, no oceanic data were used, and only wind information was assimilated. The improvement is attributed to the explicit consideration of air-sea interaction in the initialization. These results suggest that El Nino is more predictable than previously estimated, but that predictability may vary on decadal or longer time scales. This procedure also eliminates the well-known spring barrier to El Nino prediction, which implies that it may not be intrinsic to the real climate system.
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