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

By Stanley A. Changnon | Go to book overview

the El Niño-based predictions, at least as they were transmitted in the mass media, were so accurate raises other important issues--will subsequent predictions receive less scrutiny from the popular press and policy elites than is warranted? Will subsequent, less accurate predictions create disillusionment among users and the public?

One of the potential legacies of El Niño 97-98 concerns a major future change in the use of long-range climate predictions. The accuracy of the predictions during the event and the major economic gains resulting from the use of the forecasts present an opportunity to improve the wise use of forecasts in the future. This will involve improving the three processes in the successful use of predictions: the prediction process of the provider, the communication process between the provider and user, and the choice process of the user. Thus, improved accuracy, better communication, and greater user understanding are keys to the process. The roles of the public-sector prediction providers, including the numerous scientific research entities generating "experimental" forecasts, and the private-sector providers in this three-phase process need to be better defined to enhance wise usage of predictions. El Niño 97-98 has created a new "market," and new uses of long-range forecasts will evolve in time and across application areas at a rate that depends on how well the processes are handled.

Another potential legacy of El Niño 97-98 relates to the impression it has left among the American public and policy makers. If the public begins to believe that such events as El Niño are harbingers of future global climate change, will that belief fuel other sorts of preparedness and adaptive activity? The totality of the news coverage suggests that mediated risk communication about El Niño could have functioned as a signal event regarding the larger issue of global climate change. Such a signal could influence both public understanding and political activity related to climate. Will El Niño become the signal event for global warming, as chapter 3 suggests? Or, will this connection be another example of El Niño "hype," as suggested in Chapters 4 and 7? Time will tell.


REFERENCES

Obasi. G. O. P. 1999. El Niño in Review. World Climate News, 14, 3.

Schmid, R. E. May 7. 1998. El Niño not to blame for weird weather--victims of every climate pattern invoke the name of the seasonal anomaly. Detroit News, p. A15.

Shukla, J. 1998. El Niño and climate more predictable than previously thought. Bulletin Amer. Meteoro. Soc., 79, 2816.

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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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