El Niño, 1997-1998: The Climate Event of the Century

By Stanley A. Changnon | Go to book overview

6
Impacts of El Niño's Weather

STANLEY A. CHANGNON

The societal, economic, and environmental consequences of weather events and climate conditions in the United States vary across the nation as a result of hot and dry conditions in one region and cold and wet conditions in others, or storms in one area and none in others. Thus, for any given period, such as a season or year, the weather-caused impacts in the United States reveal a mix of winners and losers. This was certainly true with the impacts resulting from El Niño 97-98.

The official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predictions issued in June 1997 calling for more storms in parts of the nation and heavy precipitation for the South and Far West ( Climate Prediction Center, August 13, 1997) created major fears about large economic and social losses. The warnings of FEMA and the ensuing media hype created a nationwide perception that all "El Niño weather" was going to be damaging. This fear is illustrated in the cartoon in Figure 6-1. For example, the Financial Times ( July 28, 1997) tied the strong El Niño 97-98 conditions to the huge U.S. losses due to El Niño 1982-1983, with 161 killed and losses of $2.2 billion. Such connections and citations resulted from the fact that the official El Niño predictions and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warnings were comparing the large El Niño 97-98 to the large 1982-1983 event ( CPC, July 1997: FEMA, August 12, 1997).

California newspapers also focused on the 1982-1983 losses in that state, which included fourteen killed and $265 million in damages ( San Francisco Chlronicle, August 14, 1997; Sacramento Bee, October 15, 1997). This helped create considerable concern and launched major mitigation endeavors in California, where storm and rain predictions were ominous. The resulting 1997- 1998 mitigative activities in California reduced losses and were a major benefi-

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El Niño, 1997-1998: The Climate Event of the Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Contributors xv
  • 1 - What Made El NiñO 1997-1998 Famous? 3
  • References 26
  • 2 - Causes, Predictions, and Outcomes of El NiñO 1997-1998 28
  • References 47
  • 3 - Was El NiñO a Weather Metaphor--A Signal for Global Warming? 49
  • Notes 67
  • References 67
  • 4 - The Scientific Issues Associated with El NiñO 1997-1998 68
  • Appendix 103
  • References 105
  • 5 - Who Used and Benefited from the El NiñO Forecasts? 109
  • References 134
  • 6 - Impacts of El NiñO's Weather 136
  • References 166
  • 7 - Policy Responses to El NiñO 1997-1998 172
  • References 193
  • 8 - Summary Surprises, Lessons Learned, and the Legacy of El NiñO 1997-1998 197
  • References 209
  • Index 211
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