BOULDER--Will La Nina replace El Nino as the next climate phenomenon inthe public eye? It's too early to tell whether this cooling of theeastern tropical Pacific will arrive this winter, but an in-depthdiscussion of La Nina will hit Boulder this summer.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research will host the world'sfirst summit devoted to El Nino's less-studied counterpart July 15-17."Review of the Causes and Consequences of Cold Events: A La Nina Summit"is being organized by NCAR senior scientist and El Nino expert MichaelGlantz with support from the United Nations University (UNU), based inTokyo. The summit at NCAR's Mesa Laboratory will draw a number of thenation's top researchers on La Nina and El Nino from universities andgovernment agencies. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National ScienceFoundation.
La Nina is a drop from the normal sea-surface temperatures across theeastern tropical Pacific. Usually, sea-surface readings off SouthAmerica's west coast range from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit, while theyexceed 80 degrees F in the "warm pool" located in the central andwestern Pacific. This warm pool expands to cover the tropics duringEl Nino, but during La Nina, the easterly trade winds strengthen,cold upwelling off Peru and Ecuador intensifies, and sea-surfacetemperatures there fall as much as 7 degrees F below normal. Likeits counterpart, La Nina tends to be strongest during the NorthernHemisphere winter, and it typically lasts one to two years.
Unnamed until the mid-1980s, La Nina (Spanish for "the girl") hasreceived less attention than El Nino. However, La Nina's effects--such as the 1988 Midwest drought and an increased hurricane threatin the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico--can't be ignored.
In the past 20 years there have been only three La Ninas, compared toseven El Ninos. The uneven count has sparked debate over whether globalclimate change might be tweaking the Pacific tropics toward moreEl Ninos or even toward a semipermanent warm state.
The goal of the La Nina summit is to identify what is known about LaNina and its societal and environmental impacts. A workshop report willbe released afterward. The summit is the first project in a "usablescience" collaboration supported by UNU and aimed at helping PacificRim countries respond to El Nino and La Nina risks. Glantz is theproject coordinator.
NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s inatmospheric and related sciences.
Writer: Bob Henson
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