What exactly is El Niño and how will it affect Delaware? Will our beaches rebound from this winter's nor'easters? And what fish are making a comeback in local waters? These are among the questions local marine scientists will answer at the "Ocean Currents Lecture Series" to be launched April 2 at the University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies (CMS) in Lewes.
"This series is part of the college's celebration of the International Year of the Ocean," says Dr. Nancy Targett, professor of marine biology-biochemistry and CMS associate dean. "The United Nations proclaimed 1998 the Year of the Ocean, and countries around the world are developing activities to increase public awareness and understanding of the sea we all depend on. By hosting this lecture series, our goal is to share with the public some of the exciting research under way here at the college, which ranks among the top 10 marine institutions in the United States."
Leading off the lecture series at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, will be CMS oceanography professor Ferris Webster, who will present "Gazing into the Crystal Ball: The Science of El Niño." Webster, who has been on the CMS faculty since 1985, hopes to help people understand what El Niño is so that they can separate fact from fiction regarding the now-infamous phenomenon.
"El Niño has caused serious weather in California and elsewhere in the United States this year," says Webster, "but contrary to popular opinion, not all of our bad weather is due to El Niño. In my lecture, I'll talk about how El Niño develops, how it can be forecast, and how it might affect Delaware."
One of the focal points of Webster's research at CMS has been 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. Thanks to Webster and his CMS team, these data are available continuously on the World Wide Web for access by scientists around the world.
In addition to his research and teaching responsibilities at CMS, Webster chairs the International Council of Scientific Unions' Panel on World Data Centers, which includes 45 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 Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The "Ocean Currents Lecture Series" is free and open to the public. Each lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the University's Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talks will be followed by light refreshments. For more information, please call (302) 645-4279, or visit the college's Web site at www.ocean.udel.edu.