In 1997 and 1998, El Niño was in the press nearly every day and was held responsible for climate disasters in many regions of our planet. This climate phenomenon was followed by another, La Niña. Both have attracted public attention as forecasters predict the effects of these processes on local weather conditions.
To learn more about El Niño and La Niña, come to a lunch and lecture sponsored by the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies on April 21, in Wilmington, Delaware. Ferris Webster, professor of oceanography at the college since 1983, will present "The Science of El Niño and La Niña" to help people separate fact from fiction regarding these phenomena. His lecture will review the processes by which they develop, show some of their impacts, present a summary of El Niño's effects in 1997 and 1998, and update the current situation with La Niña. Webster will review what we know about effects in this region and show some local forecasts for the months to come. El Niño and La Niña are variations in ocean currents and temperatures. El Niño is the expansion of the warm sea-surface temperature in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Niña is characterized by cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central Pacific. Both are the extremes of a naturally occurring climate cycle.
"It's not uncommon for an El Niño to be followed by a La Niña, in which the climate patterns are reversed," notes Webster. "This is the case this year, and La Niña is now with us." Webster has focused much of his research on the ocean's role in climate change. For the past several years, he and his team of scientists and computer specialists have played a critical role in managing the vast amounts of data being gathered by oceanographers across the globe for the World Ocean Circulation Experiment and several other climate research initiatives. Webster established the Data Information Unit at the college's Lewes campus to provide a tool to manage the diverse data and information generated by scientists from more than 30 nations. The DIU provides an international directory of these data available continuously on the World Wide Web. The project has been funded by the National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since 1987.
In addition to his research and teaching responsibilities at the College of Marine Studies, Webster chairs the International Council for Science's Panel on World Data Centers, which includes more than 40 data centers around the world. Previously, after a career at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he served as assistant administrator for research and development at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Alberta and his doctorate in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The lunch and lecture will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at the Hotel du Pont, from noon to 1 p.m. To make reservations, at $10 per person, call (302) 831-2841. Or send an e-mail to MarineCom@udel.edu.