El Niño El Schniño 12/4/1997

For once my predictions were accurate. El Niño never drew much cyber interest, commercial or otherwise, as evidenced by the fact that in 2021 the domains elnino.com and elnino.org had no content and were for sale. The El Niño websites that still exist do not appear to have updated their content or design, so they look much the same as they did in 1997.

El Niño El Schniño 12/4/1997

by H.B. Koplowitz

As the 1997-98 version of El Niño [periodic warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean] threatens to become the Comet Kohoutek of global weather phenomenons [dubbed the “Comet of the Century,” Kohoutek was not nearly as dazzling as predicted when it passed by the Earth in 1973], it’s having a similar impact in cyberspace. There are more than 800 El Niño Southern Oscillation or “ENSO” websites. But so far they aren’t making many waves either.

The latest evidence of El Niño on the Web is at “The Future Global Web Site of ElNino.org.” “It’s Coming,” the screen is titled. Salinas [CA] entrepreneur Bruce Armour created the site in September, and plans on adding El Niño links and weather forecasts in the next week or so. Although his background is advertising and radio, not meteorology, he hopes to get the National Weather Service to help provide content.

Another new El Niño site, www.elnino.com, focuses on El Niño’s impact on California. Launched last week, it is owned by the San Diego Daily Transcript, a business newspaper, with much of the content provided by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC-San Diego. Like a lot of the sites, www.elnino.com has news clippings about the effects of El Niño, including “San Diego Roofers Not Fiddling Around Business Way Up,” and “Ziebart Offers Tips for Winter Vehicle Preparation.”

Many of the sites provide reasonably lucid explanations of the weather phenomenon, including the “El Niño Online Meteorology Guide,” ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(GH)/guides/mtr/eln/home.rxml. Put out by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, it has such basic information as that El Niño is Spanish for “the male child” (other sources say “Christ child”), and initially referred to a weak, warm ocean current that appeared each Christmas season along the coast of Ecuador and Peru. There is also a La Niña (female child), which is unusually cold sea surface temperatures that occurs about half as often as El Niño, the last being in 1995-96.

Pacific trade winds generally drive surface waters west, warming them. El Niño occurs when the easterly trade winds weaken, allowing the warmer waters of the western Pacific to move east to the South American Coast, replacing the cool nutrient-rich sea water with a warmer water depleted of nutrients, resulting in dramatic reductions in fish and plant life.

Every three to seven years there is a stronger El Niño that sometimes has major economic and environmental consequences worldwide. In the 50 or so years they have been keeping more accurate records, there have been 10 major El Niño events, the strongest previous being in 1982-83, which wreaked a lot of havoc along California’s coastline, and is the source for much of this year’s concern. This year’s El Niño mania began this spring, when instrument buoys placed off the coast of Peru after the 1982-83 El Niño picked up the highest sea temperatures ever recorded there.

A site with El Niño predictions about California is “El Niño and California Precipitation,” tornado.sfsu.edu/geosciences/elnino.html, put out by professors John Monteverdi and Jan Null of the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University. Noting that media reports this summer predicted a “spectacularly wet winter” for California, it forecasts “greater than normal” precipitation, but nothing of Noah’s Arc proportions. It adds that, “not all flooding events in California occur during El Niño years, and not all El Niño years produce widespread flooding.” The site also lets you view a Quicktime movie of global sea temperatures from NASA showing the progression from La Niña last November to the current El Niño conditions, which looks like a fast-motion acne attack.

The website of the masters of disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has El Niño survival tips including buying flood insurance, moving valuables, appliances, electric panels and utility meters to upper floors, having a family disaster supply kit in your home and car, and having “plenty of spare cash.” The site also has information on the Oct. 14 El Niño Community Preparedness Summit FEMA held in Santa Monica, which focused on ways to prepare for El Niño. FEMA broadcast the summit live over the Internet, and archived sound bites at its website. With RealAudio software, you can hear El Niño comments from such stirring speakers as FEMA Director James Witt and Vice President Al Gore.

Other informative El Niño sites include the Nationa Weather Service’s San Francisco Bay Area El NiñoPage, nws.mbay.net/elnino.html, and the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies Library www.coaps.fsu.edu/lib/elninolinks, which has links to several El Niño newspaper cartoons.

© 1997-2021 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

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