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Science Bits

This series of science news briefs from Members and Affiliates is part of our ongoing effort to include more news from UCAR at large in the Quarterly. It is a sampling from recent scientific journals or press releases issued by the respective institutions. If you know of an activity or recent finding at your institution that might be of interest to the rest of the UCAR community, please let us know.

University of Alabama in Huntsville: Weather Underground

In the past year more than 170,000 connections have been made via Internet to UAH's Southeastern Weather Underground, a computerized weather data service established in 1987 under a contract with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The Weather Underground provides weather data, such as heating and cooling degree days, forecasts for foreign countries, and radiosonde data to scientists and forecasters around the world. For further information, contact project manager Gregory Cox at 205-922-5738 or cox@atmos.uah.edu. URL is gopher://info.uah.edu. For a copy of the full news release, contact Phillip Gentry, UAH Office of University Relations, 205-895-6414 or mrphil@wind.atmos.uah.edu.

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Vegetation and climate

Michael Coe, Jonathan Foley, John Kutzbach, and Samuel Lewis used the GENESIS global climate model to investigate the relationship between large changes in earth's vegetation cover and climate. (The GENESIS project is an effort, headed by Starley Thompson of NCAR, to develop a comprehensive earth model system.) Other studies have suggested that 6,000 years ago boreal forests extended farther north than they do now, apparently as a result of high-latitude warming from variations in the earth's orbit. Simulating those orbital and vegetation conditions, the UW researchers found that the orbital variations alone warm the high latitudes by 2 degrees C or more, and the subsequent northward extension of forests produces an additional warming of 2 degrees C. "This suggests that large positive feedbacks between climate and boreal forests may have taken place in the recent geological past." Their report appears in the 1 September Nature (Vol. 371). Foley can be reached at 608-265-5144 or jfoley@facstaff.wisc.edu.

Cornell University, Imperial College, UCSB: Mechanism for ozone deficit

A team of researchers from Cornell University; Imperial College, London; and the University of California, Santa Barbara, has discovered a mechanism that could account for the difference between modeled and observed stratospheric ozone concentrationsŃthe so-called ozone deficit. The models tend to predict less ozone than is observed. It had been hypothesized that if the breakup of ozone molecules produced a certain highly energized form of the oxygen molecular product, this excited oxygen could combine with normal oxygen to produce extra ozone. While experimenting with a new instrument, these researchers found that such a form of energized oxygen does exist. The new mechanism is not the whole answer, they conclude, but it does account for the deficit at certain altitudes. Their research was reported in the 23 September Science (Vol. 265). For further information, contact Paul Houston of Cornell at 607-255- 4303, or plh2@cornell.edu.

University of Oklahoma: Climatological research on Moroccan precipitation

University meteorologists are working with their Moroccan colleagues to study a poorly understood meteorological phenomenon that plays a major role in determining the climate of Morocco. A serious drought in Morocco from 1979 to 1984 raised fears that the Sahara Desert might be encroaching on the nation. At the request of King Hassan II, Charles Stockton of the University of Arizona found tree-ring records of two similar periods of drought in the area over the past 1,000 years. Later on, Peter Lamb, director of the OU Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, found a relationship between Moroccan rainfall and the North Atlantic Oscillation. This oscillation (which Hassan has named El Moubarak, or "The Providence") is the Atlantic equivalent of the better-known Southern Oscillation associated with El Ni–o in the Pacific. Now, in the wake of new droughts from 1991 to 1993, the Moroccan Direction de la Meteorologie Nationale (DMN) has entered into an agreement with OU for a long-term joint research and training program. The project, which will bring Moroccan meteorologists to OU for intense training and research, will be the most comprehensive study ever of El Moubarak. It is funded by OU, the DMN, and the U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentŠMorocco. For a copy of the complete press release, contact Judith Wall at 405-325-1701. Peter Lamb can be reached at 405-325-3041 or plamb@geoadm.gcn.uoknor.edu.

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Edited by Carol Rasmussen, carolr@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Mon Apr 3 17:39:58 MDT 2000