Hang on to Your Hats, El Nino May Bring Wild Weather the Ocean Current Could Have Profound Effects, Say Scientists at UN Gathering

By Elizabeth Olson, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

Hang on to Your Hats, El Nino May Bring Wild Weather the Ocean Current Could Have Profound Effects, Say Scientists at UN Gathering


Elizabeth Olson, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Things are really heating up in the Pacific Ocean, scientists say, and the result could be wild weather worldwide.

The abnormal warming of Pacific waters, known as "El Nino," which has been under way for about six months already, equals the century's strongest occurrence in 1982-83, according to scientists attending a United Nations-sponsored conference that concluded last week.

El Nino could affect not only weather patterns, but crops and the spread of diseases, the scientists said.

"It is the climate event of the century already," declares Jagadish Shukla, president of the Calverton, Md.-based Institute of Global Environment and Society. Temperatures of the sea surface off South America now surpass previous records kept for more than 150 years, he says.

The possible impacts are immense. They could range from excessive rainfall and storms in California and wetter weather in the southern states to severe droughts in Africa, Australia, and certain parts of South America.

El Nino could also have contributed to droughts in North Korea and central China, says Ants Leetmaa, head of the United States Climate Prediction Center.

The weather anomaly could have even been a cause of recent massive flooding in Europe, although Dr. Leetmaa says this had not yet been proved.

Crops as diverse as wheat and pepper could be affected by El Nino, particularly if drought hits growing areas. For example, the US might expect more precipitation in the Midwest, aiding such crops as winter wheat in Kansas and Oklahoma, he says. …

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