El Nino Exercise
An aspect of Physical Geography includes Earth’s weather and climate. For weather this includes atmospheric moisture, wind, temperature and barometric pressure. The elements of climate incluse solar radiation and its spatial distribution, land and water contrasts, prevailing wind and pressure regions, ocean currents, topographic and elevational contrasts. One particular phenomenon encompases both of these elements. El Nino is a coupled oceanic-atmospheric interaction centered in the tropical Pacific Ocean which influences and distorts global weather and climate on an interannual basis (roughly every 2-7 years; its been 6 years since the last one in 2009-10). Your assignment is to write at minimum a 12 page paper (no more than 20) which discusses the mechanics of the phenomenon (relatively non-technical; don’t freak out) and its impacts on global weather patterns. Another purpose of this paper is to avoid a tendency I’ve noticed over the past 20 years of the media to “hype” any and all weather events as if they were a harbinger of the end of the world. This desensitizes the public to ignore real problems and overall does nothing to advance the cause of science. Your task is to use this paper as an opportunity to inform the public without using any scare tactics.
Your paper should have a section that addresses each of the following:
The El Nino phenomena: what it is, how it gets started, the physical parameters that govern its onset, development and termination. Do the same thing for its “sister” La Nina and explain how one determines the difference between El Nino, La Nina and neutral (sometimes known as “La Nada” in Texas) conditions in the tropical Pacific. Finally, why do we use such terms as El Nino/La Nina and discuss if these terms are helpful to the general public.
A brief history of scientific research on El Nino particularly noting the contributions of Sir Gilbert Walker and Jacob Bjerknes.
How does the ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation) influence global weather patterns such as the South Asian Monsoon, the African Monsoon, the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, the Atlantic hurricane season, winter weather across North America and weather across the East Indies (ie; Indonesia) and Australia. You don’t have to address all of these regions, just one will be sufficient.
Discuss the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), what is it and does it influence the phase and strength of the ENSO or is it the other way around.
Discuss the significance of the four El Nino regions in the tropical Pacific; Nino 4, 3.4, 3, and 1+2. Explain how the spatial distribution of thermal departures (ie; warmer or colder than normal waters) across these regions are significant in determining what kind of El Nino is developing as well as its strength and or weakness. If you are doing North American winter impacts these regions are critical in determining whether or not the winter will be cold and stormy or mild overall.
How changes in the regional/global climate (ie; various climate change scenarios) may improve or worsen El Ninos impacts as well as its frequency and strength.
How recent advances in weather technology is enabling better and more accurate ENSO forecasts.
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