Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 23 Issue 03

View Issue TOC
Volume 23, No. 3
Pages 86 - 103


A TOGA Retrospective

By Michael J. McPhaden , Antonio J. Busalacchi , and David L.T. Anderson 
Jump to
Article Abstract Citation References Copyright & Usage
Article Abstract

The Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program was a 10-year international climate research effort carried out between 1985 and 1994 under the auspices of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). TOGA’s goals were to determine the predictability of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system in the tropics on seasonal-to-interannual time scales, to understand the mechanisms responsible for that predictability, and to establish an observing system to support climate prediction. The US contribution to TOGA focused mainly on the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, which is the most prominent climate signal on seasonal-to-interannual time scales. One of TOGA’s great strengths was that it forged the three fields of observation, theory, and modeling into a coherent program. TOGA also included climate impact studies from the very beginning by collaborating with scientists outside the field of physical climate research. This article highlights some key successes of TOGA and assesses its legacy from a perspective of progress over the past 15 years. It also celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), established within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to promote international cooperation in marine research, services, and observations. IOC, together with the World Meteorological Organization and the International Council of Science, co-sponsored not only TOGA, but also antecedent and follow-on climate research programs under WCRP. The continuity of these research programs over the time span of decades is one of the reasons for their long-term successes.


McPhaden, M.J., A.J. Busalacchi, and D.L.T. Anderson. 2010. A TOGA retrospective. Oceanography 23(3):86–103, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2010.26.


Ashok, K., S.K. Behera, S.A. Rao, H. Weng, and T. Yamagata. 2007. El Niño Modoki and its possible teleconnection. Journal of Geophysical Research 112, C11007. [CrossRef]

Anderson, D.L.T. 2010. Early successes: El Niño, Southern Oscillation and seasonal forecasting. In Proceedings of “OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society” Conference, vol. 2, Venice, Italy, September 21–25, 2009, J. Hall, D.E. Harrison, and D. Stammer, eds, ESA Publication WPP-306.

Balmaseda, M.A., M.K. Davey, and D.L.T. Anderson. 1995. Decadal and seasonal dependence of ENSO prediction skill. Journal of Climate 8:2,705–2,715.

Balmaseda, M.A., A. Vidard, and D.L.T. Anderson. 2008. The ECMWF ocean analysis system: ORA-S3. Monthly Weather Review 136:3,018–3,034.

Balmaseda, M., and D. Anderson. 2009. Impact of initialization strategies and observations on seasonal forecast skill. Geophysical Research Letters 36, L01701. [CrossRef]

Barnett, T., N. Graham, M. Cane, S. Zebiak, S. Dolan, J. O’Brien, and D. Legler. 1988. On the prediction of the El Niño of 1986–1987. Science 241:192–196. [CrossRef]

Barnston, A.G., Y. He, and M.H. Glantz. 1999a. Predictive skill of statistical and dynamical climate models in SST forecasts during the 1997–98 El Niño episode and the 1998 La Niña onset. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 80:217–244. [CrossRef]

Barnston, A.G., A. Leetmaa, V.E. Kousky, R.E. Livezey, E. O’Lenic, H. Van den Dool, A.J. Wagner, and D.A. Unger. 1999b. NCEP Forecasts of the El Niño of 1997–98 and its US Impacts. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 80:1,829–1,852.

Barreiro, M., P. Chang, L. Ji, R. Saravanan, and A. Giannini. 2005. Dynamical elements of predicting boreal spring tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures. Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans 31:61–85. [CrossRef]

Battisti, D.S., and A.C. Hirst. 1989. Interannual variability in a tropical atmosphere-ocean model: Influence of the basic state, ocean geometry and nonlinearity. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 46:1,687–1,712.

Bjerknes, J. 1966. A possible response of the atmospheric Hadley circulation to equatorial anomalies of ocean temperature. Tellus 18:820–829. [CrossRef]

Bjerknes, J. 1969. Atmospheric teleconnections from the equatorial Pacific. Monthly Weather Review 97:163–172. [CrossRef]

Bourlès, B., R. Lumpkin, M.J. McPhaden, F. Hernandez, P. Nobre, E. Campos, L. Yu, S. Planton, A. Busalacchi, A.D. Moura, and others. 2008. The PIRATA program: History, accomplishments, and future directions. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 89:1,111–1,125.

Busalacchi, A.J., and J.J. O’Brien. 1980. Seasonal variability in a model of the tropical Pacific. Journal of Physical Oceanography 10:1,929–1,952.

Busalacchi, A.J., and J.J. O’Brien. 1981. Interannual variability of the equatorial Pacific in the 1960s. Journal of Geophysical Research 86:10,901–10,907. [CrossRef]

Canby, T.Y. 1984. El Niño ill wind. National Geographic 165:144–183.

Cane, M.A., S.C. Dolan, and S.E. Zebiak. 1986. Experimental forecasts of the 1982/83 El Niño. Nature 321:827–832. [CrossRef]

Carton, J.A., and B.S. Giese. 2008. A reanalysis of ocean climate using Simple Ocean Data Assimilation (SODA). Monthly Weather Review 136:2,999–3,017.

Chang, P., T. Yamagata, P. Schopf, S.K. Behera, J. Carton, W.S. Kessler, G. Meyers, T. Qu, F. Schott, S. Shetye, and S.-P. Xie. 2006. Climate fluctuations of tropical coupled systems: The role of ocean dynamics. Journal of Climate 19:5,122–5,174.

Chen, D., M.A. Cane, A. Kaplan, S.E. Zebiak, and D. Huang. 2004. Predictability of El Niño over the past 148 years. Nature 428:733–736. [CrossRef]

Clement, A.C., R. Seager, and M.A. Cane. 1999. Orbital controls on ENSO and the tropical climate. Paleoceanography 14:441–456. [CrossRef]

Collins, M., S.-I. An, W. Cai, A. Ganachaud, E. Guilyardi, F.-F. Jin, M. Jochum, M. Lengaigne, S. Power, A. Timmermann, and others. 2010. The impact of global warming on the tropical Pacific and El Niño. Nature Geoscience 3:391–397. [CrossRef]

Compo, G.P., J.S. Whitaker, and P.D. Sardeshmukh. 2006. Feasibility of a 100-year reanalysis using only surface pressure data. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 87:175–190. [CrossRef]

Delcroix, T., and M.J. McPhaden. 2002. Interannual sea surface salinity and temperature changes in the western Pacific warm pool during 1992–2000. Journal of Geophysical Research 107, C12, 8002. [CrossRef]

Eisenman, I., L. Yu, and E. Tziperman. 2005. Westerly wind bursts: ENSO’s tail rather than the dog? Journal of Climate 18:5,224–5,238.

Gill, A.E. 1982. Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamics. Academic Press, London, UK, 662 pp.

Godfrey, J.S., R.A. Houze Jr., R.H. Johnson, R. Lukas, J.-L. Redelsperger, A. Sumi, and R. Weller. 1998. Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (COARE): An interim report. Journal of Geophysical Research 103:14,395–14,450, https://doi.org/10.1029/97JC03120. [CrossRef]

Gu, D., and S.G.H. Philander. 1995. Secular changes of annual and interannual variability in the tropics during the past century. Journal of Climate 8:864–876. [CrossRef]

Guilyardi, E., A. Wittenberg, A. Fedorov, M. Collins, C. Wang, A. Capotondi, G.J. van Oldenborgh, and T. Stockdale. 2009. Understanding El Niño in ocean–atmosphere general circulation models: Progress and challenges. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90:325–340. [CrossRef]

Halpern, D. 1987. Observations of annual and El Niño thermal and flow variations at 0°, 110°W and 0°, 95°W during 1980–1985. Journal of Geophysical Research 92:8,197–8,212.

Halpern, D. 1996. Visiting TOGA’s past. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 77:233–242. [CrossRef]

Harrison, D.E., and D.M. Legler. 2010. Saltier, hotter, more acidic and less diverse? Observing the future ocean. Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 91:23. [CrossRef]

Hawkins, E., and R. Sutton. 2009. The potential to narrow uncertainty in regional climate predictions. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90:1,095–1,107.

Hayes, S.P., L.J. Mangum, J. Picaut, A. Sumi, and K. Takeuchi. 1991. TOGA TAO: A moored array for real-time measurements in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 72:339–347. [CrossRef]

Hoerling, M.P., and A. Kumar. 2003. The perfect ocean for drought. Science 299:691–694. [CrossRef]

Hurlburt, H.E., J.C. Kindle, and J.J. O’Brien. 1976. A numerical simulation of the onset of El Niño. Journal of Physical Oceanography 6:621–631. [CrossRef]

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. 1980. First Session of the SCOR/IOC Committee on Climate Changes and the Ocean (CCCO). Miami, FL, October 8–10, 1979. UNESCO/IOC, Paris, France, 10 pp.

Jin, F.-F. 1997. An equatorial ocean recharge paradigm for ENSO. Part I: Conceptual model. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 54:811–829. [CrossRef]

Kalnay, E., M. Kanamitsu, R. Kistler, W. Collins, D. Deaven, L. Gandin, M. Iredell, S. Saha, G. White, J. Woollen, and others. 1996. The NCEP/NCAR 40-Year Reanalysis Project. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 77:437–471. [CrossRef]

Keenlyside, N.S., M. Latif, J. Jungclaus, L. Kornblueth, and E. Roeckner. 2008. Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector. Nature 453:84–88. [CrossRef]

Kessler, W.S., and R. Kleeman. 2000. Rectification of the Madden-Julian oscillation into the ENSO cycle. Journal of Climate 13:3,560–3,575.

Kessler, W.S., M.J. McPhaden, and K.M. Weickmann. 1995. Forcing of intraseasonal Kelvin Waves in the equatorial Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research 100:10,613–10,631. [CrossRef]

Kirtman, B., and A. Pirani. 2009. The state of the art of seasonal prediction: Outcomes and recommendations from the first World Climate Research Program workshop on seasonal prediction. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90:455–458. [CrossRef]

Kistler, R., E. Kalnay, W. Collins, S. Saha, G. White, J. Woollen, M. Chelliah, W. Ebisuzaki, M. Kanamitsu, V. Kousky, and others. 2001. The NCEP–NCAR 50-year reanalysis: Monthly means CD-ROM and documentation. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 82:247–267. [CrossRef]

Knox, R., and D. Halpern. 1982. Long range Kelvin wave propagation of transport variations in Pacific Ocean equatorial currents. Journal of Marine Research 40(suppl.):329–339.

Koblinsky, C.J., and N.R. Smith, eds. 2001. Observing the Oceans in the 21st Century. Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia, 604 pp.

Kumar, K.K., B. Rajagopalan, and M. Cane. 1999. On the weakening relationship between the Indian monsoon and ENSO. Science 284:2,156–2,159.

Lagerloef, G., F.R. Colomb, D. Le Vine, F. Wentz, S. Yueh, C. Ruf, J. Lilly, J. Gunn, Y. Chao, A. deCharon, G. Feldman, and C. Swift. 2008. The Aquarius/SAC-D mission: Designed to meet the salinity remote-sensing challenge. Oceanography 21(1):68–81. [pdf]

Larkin, N.K., and D.E. Harrison. 2005. On the definition of El Niño and associated seasonal average US weather anomalies. Geophysical Research Letters 32, L13705. [CrossRef]

Latif, M., D. Anderson, T. Barnett, M. Cane, R. Kleeman, A. Leetmaa, J. O’Brien, A. Rosati, and E. Schneider. 1998. A review of the predictability and prediction of ENSO. Journal of Geophysical Research 103:14,375–14,394. [CrossRef]

Latif, M., and N.S. Keenlyside. 2009. El Niño/Southern Oscillation response to global warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106:20,578–20,583. [CrossRef]

Leetmaa, A., and M. Ji. 1989. Operational hindcasting of the tropical Pacific. Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans 13:465–490. [CrossRef]

Legler, D.M., I.M. Navon, and J.J. O’Brien. 1989. Objective analysis of pseudo-stress over the Indian Ocean using a direct-minimisation approach. Monthly Weather Review 117:709–720. [CrossRef]

Lubick, N. 2009. Damaged buoys blur El Niño forecasts. Nature 461:455. [CrossRef]

Lukas, R., and E. Lindstrom. 1991. The mixed layer in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research 96:3,343–3,357.

Luo, J.-J., S. Behera, Y. Masumoto, H. Sakuma, and T. Yamagata. 2008. Successful prediction of the consecutive IOD in 2006 and 2007. Geophysical Research Letters 35, L14S02. [CrossRef]

Maes, C., J. Picaut, and S. Belamari. 2005. Importance of the salinity barrier layer for the buildup of El Niño. Journal of Climate 18:104–118. [CrossRef]

Mantua, N.J., S.R. Hare, Y. Zhang, J.M. Wallace, and R.C. Francis. 1997. A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78:1,069–1,079.

McCreary, J.P. Jr. 1976. Eastern tropical ocean response to changing wind systems, with application to El Niño. Journal of Physical Oceanography 6:632–645. [CrossRef]

McCreary, J.P. Jr., and D.L.T. Anderson. 1991. An overview of coupled ocean-atmosphere models of El Niño and the Southern Oscillation. Journal of Geophysical Research 96(suppl.):3,125–3,150.

McPhaden, M.J. 1999. Genesis and evolution of the 1997–98 El Niño. Science 283:950–954. [CrossRef]

McPhaden, M.J. 2008. Evolution of the 2006–07 El Niño: The role of intraseasonal to interannual time scale dynamics. Advances in Geosciences 14:219–230. [CrossRef]

McPhaden, M.J., A.J. Busalacchi, R. Cheney, J.R. Donguy, K.S. Gage, D. Halpern, M. Ji, P. Julian, G. Meyers, G.T. Mitchum, and others. 1998. The Tropical Ocean-Global Atmosphere (TOGA) observing system: A decade of progress. Journal of Geophysical Research 103:14,169–14,240. [CrossRef]

McPhaden, M.J., G. Meyers, K. Ando, Y. Masumoto, V.S.N. Murty, M. Ravichandran, F. Syamsudin, J. Vialard, L. Yu, and W. Yu. 2009. RAMA: The Research Moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90:459–480. [CrossRef]

Meinen, C.S., and M.J. McPhaden. 2000. Observations of warm water volume changes in the equatorial Pacific and their relationship to El Niño and La Niña. Journal of Climate 13:3,551–3,559.

Moore, A.M., and R. Kleeman. 1999. Stochastic forcing of ENSO by the intraseasonal oscillation. Journal of Climate 12:1,199–1,220.

Murtugudde, R., J.P. McCreary, and A.J. Busalacchi. 2000. Oceanic processes associated with anomalous events in the Indian Ocean with relevance to 1997–1998. Journal of Geophysical Research 105:3,295–3,306.

National Research Council. 1994. Ocean-Atmosphere Observations for Short-term Climate Predictions. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 51 pp.

National Research Council. 1996. Learning to Predict Climate Variations Associated with El Niño and the Southern Oscillation: Accomplishments and Legacies of the TOGA Program. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 171 pp.

National Research Council. 2007. Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 456 pp.

National Research Council. 2008. Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 190 pp.

Neelin, J.D., D.S. Battisti, A.C. Hirst, F.-F. Jin, Y. Wakata, T. Yamagata, and S. Zebiak. 1998. ENSO theory. Journal of Geophysical Research 103:14,261–14,290. [CrossRef]

Nihoul, J.C.J., ed. 1985. Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Models. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 767 pp.

Nowlin, W.D. Jr., M. Briscoe, N. Smith, M.J. McPhaden, D. Roemmich, P. Chapman, and J.F. Grassle. 2001. Evolution of a sustained ocean observing system. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 82:1,368–1,376.

Philip, S., and G.J. van Oldenborgh. 2006. Shifts in ENSO coupling processes under global warming. Geophysical Research Letters 33, L11704. [CrossRef]

Rasmusson, E.M., and T.H. Carpenter. 1982. Variations in tropical sea surface temperature and surface wind fields associated with the Southern Oscillation/El Niño. Monthly Weather Review 110, 354–384. [CrossRef]

Reynolds, R.W., and T.M. Smith. 1994. Improved global sea surface temperature analysis using optimum interpolation. Journal of Climate 7:929–948. [CrossRef]

Reynolds, R.W., M. Ji, and A. Leetmaa. 1998. Use of salinity to improve ocean modeling. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 23:543–553. [CrossRef]

Reynolds, R.W., T.M. Smith, C. Liu, D.B. Chelton, K.S. Casey, and M.G. Schlax. 2007. Daily high-resolution-blended analyses for sea surface temperature. Journal of Climate 20:5,473–5,496.

Saji, N.H., B.N. Goswami, P.N. Vinayachandran, and T. Yamagata. 1999. A dipole mode in the tropical Indian Ocean. Nature 401:360–363. [CrossRef]

Schopf, P.S., and M.J. Suarez. 1988. Vacillations in a coupled ocean-atmosphere model. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 45:549–566. [CrossRef]

Schubert, S., D. Gutzler, H. Wang, A. Dai, T. Delworth, C. Deser, K. Findell, R. Fu, W. Higgins, M. Hoerling, and others. 2009. A US CLIVAR project to assess and compare the responses of global climate models to drought-related SST forcing patterns: Overview and results. Journal of Climate 22:5,251–5,272.

Seager, R., Y. Kushnir, C. Herweijer, N. Naik, and J. Velez. 2005. Modeling of tropical forcing of persistent droughts and pluvials over western North America: 1856–2000. Journal of Climate 18:4,065–4,088.

Send, U., R. Weller, D. Wallace, F. Chavez, R. Lampitt, T. Dickey, M. Honda, K. Nittis, R. Lukas, M. McPhaden, and R. Feely. 2010. OceanSITES. In Proceedings of “OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society” Conference, vol. 2, Venice, Italy, September 21–25, 2009, J. Hall, D.E. Harrison, and D. Stammer, eds, ESA Publication WPP-306.

Smith, N.R. 1995. An improved system for tropical ocean sub-surface temperature analyses. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology 12:850–870. [CrossRef]

Smith, D.M., S. Cusack, A.W. Colman, C.K. Folland, G.R. Harris, and J.M. Murphy. 2007. Improved surface temperature prediction for the coming decade from a global climate model. Science 317:796–799. [CrossRef]

Stockdale, T.N., D.L.T. Anderson, M. Balmaseda, F. Doblas Reyes, L. Ferranti, K. Mogensen, F. Molteni, and F. Vitart. In press. ECMWF Seasonal Forecast System 3 and its prediction of Sea Surface Temperature. Climate Dynamics.

Tudhope, A.W., C.P. Chilcott, M.T. McCulloch, E.R. Cook, J. Chappell, R.M. Ellam, D.W. Lea, J.M. Lough, and G.B. Shimmield. 2001. Variability in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation through a glacial-interglacial cycle. Science 291:1,511–1,517.

Uppala, S.M., P.W. Kallberg, A.J. Simmons, U. Andrae, V.D. Bechtold, M. Fiorino, J.K. Gibson, J. Haseler, A. Hernandez, G.A. Kelly, and others. 2005. The ERA-40 re-analysis. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 131:2,961–3,012.

Wajsowicz, R.C. 2005. Potential predictability of tropical Indian Ocean SST anomalies. Geophysical Research Letters 32, L24702. [CrossRef]

Walker, G.T. 1924. Correlations in seasonal variations in weather. Part IX: A further study of world weather. Memoirs of the India Meteorological Department 24(4):275–332.

Walker, G.T., and E.W. Bliss. 1932. World Weather. Part V. Memoirs of the Royal Meteorological Society 4(36):53–84.

Webster, P.J., and R. Lukas. 1992. TOGA COARE: The Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 73:1,377–1,416.

Webster, P.J., A.M. Moore, J.P. Loschnigg, and R.R. Lebben. 1999. Coupled ocean-atmosphere dynamics in the Indian Ocean during 1997–98. Nature 401:356–360. [CrossRef]

Wunsch, C., P. Heimbach, R.M. Ponte, I. Fukumori, and the ECCO-GODAE Consortium Members. 2009. The global circulation of the ocean estimated by the ECCO Consortium. Oceanography 22(2):88–103. [pdf]

Wyrtki, K. 1975. El Niño: The dynamic response of the equatorial Pacific Ocean to atmospheric forcing. Journal of Physical Oceanography 5:572–584. [CrossRef]

Copyright & Usage

This is an open access article made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format as long as users cite the materials appropriately, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate the changes that were made to the original content. Images, animations, videos, or other third-party material used in articles are included in the Creative Commons license unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If the material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission directly from the license holder to reproduce the material.