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Scientists Tackle Climate Variability, Global Warming At Paris Meeting

December 2, 1998
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
In a major agenda-setting conference that will guide much of the world's climate research for the next decade, representatives from over 60 countries will gather in Paris December 2-4 to examine questions relating to natural climate variability, the human role in global climate change, and the predictability of global and regional climate.

BOULDER--In a major agenda-setting conference that will guide much ofthe world's climate research for the next decade, representatives fromover 60 countries will gather in Paris December 2-4 to examine questionsrelating to natural climate variability, the human role in globalclimate change, and the predictability of global and regional climate.

The Climate Variability and Predictability Study (CLIVAR) of the WorldClimate Research Programme is "the largest, most comprehensiveinternational climate research program ever undertaken," according toKevin Trenberth, co-chair of the CLIVAR scientific steering group.Trenberth will deliver a keynote address on CLIVAR's recently publishedimplementation plan and on the evolution of CLIVAR science. He is alsohead of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center forAtmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. NCAR's primary sponsor is theNational Science Foundation (NSF).

At the meeting, a large U.S. delegation, including representatives fromNSF, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will outline theU.S. support and plans. The U.S. group is headed by Michael Hall (NOAA'sOffice of Global Programs), who will give the closing keynote address.

Attendees will define climate issues relevant to their own regions andmap out collaborative efforts to answer the most pressing questions.Among the new research presented at the meeting will be

--The 1997-98 El Nino/La Nina--Ants Leetmaa, National Centers forEnvironmental Prediction, United States

--Long-term climate variability and the detection and attribution ofanthropogenic effects--Suki Manabe, Japan

--Towards the prediction of monsoon variability--Victor Magana Rueda,Mexico

--Decadal variability in the ocean-atmosphere system--Jurgen Willebrand,Germany.

Created in 1993, the 15-year CLIVAR program focuses on the interactionof the oceans and the atmosphere and their role in the earth's overallclimate. CLIVAR's goal is to enhance scientists' ability to predictclimate on both global and regional scales from a season to a century.Such predictions might warn Kenyan farmers of heavy El Nino-relatedrains that could drown crops, alert towns along the western Atlanticcoast of the projected intensity of the brewing hurricane season as LaNina builds in the Pacific, or caution Indonesian brush burners of anexpected fire-prolonging drought.

The meeting will be held at the United Nations Educational, Scientific,and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) center in Paris. For more, pleasecontact Anatta at 303-497-8604;

NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmosphericand related sciences.


A Perspective on the Weather Events of 1997 and 1998

Following is an excerpt from a paper by Kevin Trenberth, submitted tothe journal CONSEQUENCES--THE NATURE & IMPLICATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTALCHANGE (, describing recentclimate extremes and their impacts in the United States and elsewhere.This excerpt may be reproduced with proper credit to the author and thejournal, CONSEQUENCES.

The August 1998 issue of Life magazine featured "WEATHER" as its coverstory and claimed 16,367 dead and $45.2 billion in damage since thebeginning of 1997. After this story was written, other major weather-related disasters occurred. For instance, major floods devastated partsof Korea in early August and extensive heavy rains in China led toflooding of the Yangtze River where there are preliminary reports ofmore than 2,000 deaths, over 14 million people homeless, and over $25billion in damage. Heat waves and air pollution episodes have alsoplagued many regions, particularly in Egypt, across the Mediterranean,and southern Europe. At least 10,000 Central Americans were killed andmany thousands more made homeless in the fall of 1998 by HurricaneMitch, the deadliest and fourth-strongest Atlantic hurricane of thiscentury.

In the United States, several major weather-related stories with largehuman impacts and severe damage have occurred in the past year or so,and many stories linked the disasters to El Nino. Tornado outbreaks andfloods in Florida ($1 billion damage and at least 132 deaths, accordingto NOAA) were part of a pattern that led to the wettest winter(December-February) in the Southeast on record. Torrential rains inFebruary in California led to flooding in many locales, mudslides andcoastal erosion. Huge damage occurred in the winter ice storm in NewEngland and southeastern Canada, with loss of power to many communitiesfor several weeks. Meanwhile, the northern tier of states experiencedone of the mildest winters on record. Lake Erie failed to freeze foronly the third time on record.

Spring brought flooding to several areas, such as Iowa, Indiana, and NewEngland, as part of generally wetter than normal conditions from Idahoto New England. Ohio River flooding left 30,000 people without power.Meanwhile drought enveloped the South. Extremely dry conditions fromApril through June 1998 led to wildfires which destroyed many structuresand charred 485,000 acres in Florida alone. In Texas the droughtcontinued into summer, bringing with it sweltering heat waves. Theseconditions have devastated agriculture throughout the state. Forinstance, the drought in Texas (the number-one U.S. cotton producer) andthe wetness in the winter and spring in California (the number-two U.S.cotton producer) led the U.S. Department of Agriculture in August toproject that the U.S. cotton crop would shrink by 24% from 1997. InCalifornia the losses come about because the wetness created anenvironment favorable to a soil fungus. Areas with drier than normalconditions or even droughts during El Nino, such as Indonesia, thePhilippines, Australia, Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and parts of Africa andBrazil, are apt to experience heavy rains during La Nina.

Meanwhile, areas that experience floods in El Nino, such as Peru,Ecuador, Uruguay and northern Argentina in South America, parts ofAfrica and southern parts of the United States in winter are apt to bedrier than normal during La Nina events. In 1997, the strongest droughtset in over Indonesia and it led to many fires, set as part ofactivities of farmers and corporations clearing land for agriculture,raging out of control. With the fires came respiratory problems inadjacent areas 1000 kilometers distant and even a plane crash in thearea has been linked to the visibility problems. Subsequently,continuing in to 1998, El Nino-related drought and fires evolved inBrazil, Mexico and Florida. Flooding took place in Peru and Ecuador, asusual with El Nino, and also in Chile, and coastal fisheries weredisrupted.

-The End-

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National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Scientists Tackle Climate Variability, Global Warming At Paris Meeting." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 1998. <>.
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). (1998, December 2). Scientists Tackle Climate Variability, Global Warming At Paris Meeting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 30, 2017 from
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Scientists Tackle Climate Variability, Global Warming At Paris Meeting." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 30, 2017).