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Top Story

What will El Niño be like in the future? Scientists look to the past for answers

Scientists are trying to predict the future behavior of El Niño -- the formation of warmer-than-usual ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific -- by looking back in time. New findings suggest that 5 million years ago, El Niño occurred with about the same frequency as it does today. National Science Foundation-funded, Cornell College geologists analyzed decades' worth of data on Caribbean Ocean temperatures. The researchers obtained the data from well-preserved, 5-million-year-old fossil corals they collected in the mountains of the central Dominican Republic, a region once covered by the sea. Using chemical signals from the corals, which reflect monthly changes in ocean temperatures, they were able to identify past El Niño activity.

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