Wacky weather from the bottom of the sea.Weird!" That's what That's What is one of the more idiosyncratic releases by solo steel-string guitar artist Leo Kottke. It is distinctive in it's jazzy nature and "talking" songs ("Buzzby" and "Husbandry"). you're likely to hear if you ask anyone about the weather lately. New Hampshire New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut R. forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E). and Vermont, for example, were so warm last January that skiing seemed like a far-off dream. And Northern California Northern California, sometimes referred to as NorCal, is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The region contains the San Francisco Bay Area, the state capital, Sacramento; as well as the substantial natural beauty of the redwood forests, the northern , not known for heavy rainfall, had a seven-day day steady downpour. The resulting floods toppled ancient redwood trees!
If you think that's odd, check out the wacky weather in other regions: Parts of Australia recently went a full year without rain; huge dust clouds hung over cities and dead cattle littered the fields. Meanwhile, in Ecuador, south America South America, fourth largest continent (1991 est. pop. 299,150,000), c.6,880,000 sq mi (17,819,000 sq km), the southern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. , almost three meters (nine feet) of rain fell in six months-over a desert!
What periodically turns the world's weather upside down? Daniel Walker Daniel Walker (born August 6, 1922) is a former Democratic governor of the U.S. state of Illinois from 1973 to 1977.
He was born in Washington D.C. and raised near San Diego, California. He was the second Governor of Illinois to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. , a geophysicist at the University of Hawaii (body, education) University of Hawaii - A University spread over 10 campuses on 4 islands throughout the state.
See also Aloha, Aloha Net. , thinks he's found an explanation-volcanoes on the floor of the Pacific Ocean!
"There are times'" says Walker, "when the volcanoes just go berserk ber·serk
1. Destructively or frenetically violent: a berserk worker who started smashing all the windows.
2. ," spewing hot lava and gases from Earth's interior into the sea. And those eruptions, he says, often precede weird weather events.
The connection? "There's a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat being released [from volcanoes] on the ocean floor," Walker explains. That heat might be enough to warm parts of the Pacific, he says. The warm water, in turn, could heat up the air, churn up the atmosphere, and mess with the world's weather (see diagram, right).
THE VOLCANO HYPOTHESIS
What evidence does Walker have? Well, scientists recently found thousands of active volcanoes on the floor of the Pacific Ocean (see SW 10/8/93, p. 8). These volcanoes lie directly beneath an area of the ocean where scientists and fishermen have noticed the regular appearance of a warm-water current.
This current, called El Nino (meaning "the child" in Spanish), appears off the west coast of South America around December every year. During some years, the waters are abnormally warm and extend over a vast portion of the tropical Pacific. Scientists now commonly refer to these episodes of abnormal warming as El Nino.
Most climate scientists agree that the abnormal warming has drastic effects on the world's weather. El Nino's warm water heats the air above, which lowers the air pressure. Clouds and rainfall from farther west in the Pacific rush into the low-pressure zone. So in effect, El Nino "steals" weather (for example, rain) from the western Pacific (places like Australia) and carries it to the eastern Pacific-say, Ecuador.
In addition, the thunderclouds formed and carried by El Nino reach high up into Earth's atmosphere. There, they disrupt the jet stream--bands of wind that normally blow steadily west to east around the globe.
The predictable movement of the jet stream is what normally carries storms and other weather patterns west to east across the U.S. (see "Talkin' 'bout the weather," right, and SW 10/22/93, p. 10). But El Nino's thunderclouds act like giant boulders in a river: They make the jet stream take a northern turn here or a southern twist there. The result: weird weather patterns.
Though climate scientists agree on El Nino's ultimate effects, many say the idea that volcanoes start the whole cycle is full of hot air.
"It's nonsense," says Gerry Bell, a climate researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Noun 1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - an agency in the Department of Commerce that maps the oceans and conserves their living resources; predicts changes to the earth's environment; provides weather reports and forecasts floods and hurricanes and (NOAA NOAA
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Noun 1. NOAA - an agency in the Department of Commerce that maps the oceans and conserves their living resources; predicts changes to the earth's environment; ) in Maryland. "I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. anybody who knows anything about El Nino who thinks [volcanoes are the cause.]"
Most climate researchers think El Nino is simply part of a natural swing in ocean temperatures. Water that is always warm near the equator in the western Pacific, they say, sometimes flows farther eastward, depending on changes in air pressure and temperature.
In fact, says Allan Clarke, an oceanographer at Florida State University Florida State University, at Tallahassee; coeducational; chartered 1851, opened 1857. Present name was adopted in 1947. Special research facilities include those in nuclear science and oceanography. , scientists have predicted the intensity of El Nino currents based on surface-water temperatures and wind and air-pressure data. So far, says Clarke, the predictions have been pretty accurate-without volcano data.
Besides, the climate researchers say, no one has ever found a warm-water current rising from deep in the ocean. "We've got millions of observations [of ocean temperatures]," Clarke says, referring to data collected over decades by ships, buoys, and satellites. If there are warm upwellings from undersea volcanic eruptions volcanic eruptions
discharging of fumes, dust and lava from volcanoes. They have damaging potential in addition to those of being physically overpowering by the lava flow or the ash or dust fallout. , why hasn't anyone observed them?
A CLOSER LOOK
Maybe because no one has been looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. them, says Steve Hammond, a NOAA scientist in Oregon who studies undersea volcanoes. He thinks scientists should keep an open mind about Walker's volcano/El Nino hypothesis--at least until we learn more.
"The bottom of the ocean is not a quiet, dark, uninteresting place," Hammond says. "There's a lot going on down there." The volcanoes themselves were only recently discovered, he adds. No one can fully understand them or the roles they might play in the world's weather ... yet.
Meanwhile, back on the surface, scientists say the latest El Nino episode--which began in 1991--seems to be dying down. That means the world's weather may soon return to normal: Australian farmers can plant their wheat again, kids in Vermont may look forward to skiing, and Californians (we hope!) won't have to get in canoes to travel down Main Street next spring.