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A new adaptation of statistical tools applied to geophysical data sets show that the correlation between the variability of large river flows and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation index is much higher than previously thought. The research, published in Geophysical Research Letters (Vol. 33, 2006), reveals connections between this index and river flows in the tropics and subtropics that are 20 percent to 70 percent higher than what has been suggested by the linear equations typically employed, according to the paper whose lead authors are Shiraj Khan and Auroop Ganguly of ORNL's Computational Sciences and Engineering Division. Because rainfall turns to infiltration and runoff and ultimately finds its way to river basin outlets, researchers believe river flow measurements provide a good indication of aggregate rainfall. Ganguly noted that the nonlinear equations developed for this work are far more representative of real-world conditions and hopes these findings will spawn new research in other disciplines. This research was funded in part through ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.
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