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1997-26 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 17, 1997

Quick Rise in Temperatures Suggests a Blockbuster El Niño for the Late Nineties; NCAR El Niño Colloquium This Month

Contact: David Hosansky
UCAR Communications
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
Telephone: (303) 497-8611
Fax: (303) 497-8610
E-mail: hosansky@ucar.edu

July 17, 1997
BOULDER--El Niño is a warming of the surface waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean whose far-reaching climatic consequences affect societies and economies around the globe. As the second El Niño of the nineties builds in the Pacific, the National Center for Atmospheric Research is hosting a colloquium of experts July 20-August 1 in Boulder. This Tip Sheet has information about the current El Niño, the upcoming colloquium, the relationship between El Niño episodes and global warming, and a recently published book on El Niño for the lay reader. Also included are a list of experts and helpful World Wide Web sites.

The current El Niño

A strong El Niño has developed over the past several months. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), waters across the eastern tropical Pacific have warmed to levels of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius above normal. Near the South American coast, waters are the warmest observed since the El Niño of 1982-83. That El Niño, the century's strongest, triggered over $10 billion in weather-related damages worldwide. One signal of the current El Niño's strength: for about 10 days last month, the northeasterly trade winds across the entire equatorial Pacific reverted to westerlies. Such a switch has been observed only once in the past 30 years--again, during the 1982-83 El Niño. If this event behaves as most do, the present oceanic signals of El Niño will continue to intensify during the summer and fall.

The colloquium

A two-week colloquium, "A Systems Approach to El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO): Oceanic, Atmospheric, Societal, Environmental, and Policy Perspectives" will be held in Boulder July 20-August 1. Sponsored by NCAR with additional support from NOAA, the colloquium will update participants on current understanding of the causes, effects, and implications of ENSO and the various roles ENSO plays in the global climate system. By taking a multidisciplinary, systems-based approach, the colloquium seeks to stimulate new insights about climate-society interactions. Prominent ENSO experts will draw from oceanography, atmospheric science, statistics, ecology, and biology, as well as economics and other social sciences, in their presentations.

The colloquium is open to the press by prior arrangement with organizer Michael Glantz (303-497-8119; glantz@ucar.edu). A session schedule is available on the colloquium's interactive Web site, or by calling 303-497-8117.

El Niño and global warming

El Niño has been showing up more often since the late 1970s, with a prolonged episode from 1990 to 1995 and another quickly building up now. According to NCAR atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth, one possible explanation is that the warm pool in the tropical western Pacific Ocean may be growing larger. Climate models are not yet accurate enough in simulating El Niño to clearly attribute these changes to global warming. However, even without affecting how often El Niño occurs or how long it stays around, global climate warming is likely to intensify the extremes of flooding and drought already experienced in different parts of the world during a normal El Niño and its inverse, La Niña. Trenberth believes that global warming and El Niño reinforce each other in their impact on the environment and society, primarily through their combined effects on the hydrological cycle and the repercussions for water supplies.

The book: Currents of Change

Published in fall 1996 and now in its second printing, Michael Glantz's book, Currents of Change: El Niño's Impact on Climate and Society (Cambridge University Press) is aimed at a broad audience. Glantz defines El Niño, describes its far-reaching impacts on climate and society, and discusses how those impacts might be forecast. The book considers the state of prediction research and the value of forecasts in preparing for widespread effects, from drought to malaria epidemics. An introductory crossword puzzle tests readers' knowledge of El Niño.

ENSO experts

Michael (Mickey) Glantz303-497-8119glantz@ucar.edu
    NCAR/Environmental and Societal Impacts Group (ESIG)

    Specialty: Interaction between climate anomalies and human activities. A political scientist, Glantz has studied El Niño's societal impacts for 23 years.

Kevin Trenberth303-497-1318trenbert@ucar.edu
    NCAR/Climate and Global Dynamics Division

    Specialty: Global climate analysis. Trenberth has studied ENSO's interaction with global change and its impact on weather and climate anomalies worldwide, including the Midwest drought of 1988 and floods of 1993.

Gerald Meehl303-497-1331meehl@ucar.edu
    NCAR/Climate and Global Dynamics Division

    Specialty: Tropical climate and climate change. Meehl has studied El Niño phenomena using observations and global climate models and has analyzed links between El Niño and the Asian-Australian monsoons.

Nick Graham619-534-1858ngraham@ucsd.edu
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography/Climate Research Division

    Specialty: Role of tropical oceans and climate in global climate variability and climate change; seasonal-to-interannual climate prediction; impacts of climate variability and El Niño; marine meteorology of U.S. West Coast.

Ants Leetmaa301-763-8396, ext. 7553wd01al@sun1.wwb.noaa.gov
    National Center for Environmental Prediction/Climate Prediction Center

    Specialty: Director of CPC, which provides operational predictions of climate variations and monitors the global climate system.

Martin Hoerling303-492-1114mph@cdc.noaa.gov
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Climate Diagnostics Center

    Specialty: The global impact of El Niño on weather and climate.

Eileen Shea301-595-7000shea@cola.iges.org
    Institute of Global Environment and Society/Center for Application of Research on the Environment

    Specialty: Addressing the domestic and international applications of new climate forecast capabilities; establishing and supporting a dialogue between scientists and potential beneficiaries to identify forecast needs.

Jim O'Brien904-644-6911obrien@coaps.fsu.edu
    Florida State University/Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies

    Specialty: Impacts (hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, agriculture) of El Niño on North America.

Antonio Moura914-365-8493amoura@iri.ldeo.columbia.edu
    Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University/International Research Institute for Climate Prediction

    Specialty: Climate impacts over South America; applications of seasonal-to-interannual forecasts to agriculture in northeast Brazil and flooding in southern South America. Moura served as director general of Brazil's weather service.

Michael McPhaden206-526-6783mcphaden@pmel.noaa.gov
    NOAA/Pacific Marine Environment Laboratory

    Specialty: Development of ocean observing systems for climate studies; interpretation of resulting data to understand and predict climate variability.

Pertinent sites on the World Wide Web

New: NOAA Office of Global Programs/El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Home Page Interactive Web Site for ENSO Colloquium NOAA/An El Niño Theme Page NOAA/Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies NOAA-CIRES/Climate Diagnostic Center (CDC)
-The End-

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