In the distant past, when people experienced changes in the weather, such as scarcity in rainfall or an onslaught of torrential rains, unexpected increase or decrease in temperature, or other abnormal changes in weather condition for long periods of time, they were predisposed to consign these events to fate and have resolved to accept blindly what impacts these changes in their physical environment may bring. People at that time have no forewarning; and were always caught unprepared, in the midst of these abnormal climate changes impacting on their ecological systems.
Archeological evidences featured in National Geographic’s magazines or in cable television’s Discovery Channel revealed that in the ancient uncivilized world it was a prevalent custom to offer human sacrifices. And whenever these ancient tribes experienced drought they attributed it to be the handiwork of their vengeful gods whom they may have displeased unknowingly, and by offering human sacrifices they wished to appease the displeased gods, anticipating that the abnormal climatic changes they were experiencing will revert back to normal.
People during those times have no way of knowing why these events occur, but in the course of time they begun to make direct observations on their physical environment which enabled them to make a rough estimate of what the weather maybe, on the following day, by looking at the color of the sky in the evening and in the morning. They have also resorted to mythology and folklore to explain these occurrences, although “some of these … can be explained scientifically” but the rest were just plain superstitions, as pointed out by Shipman & Wilson (1990, p. 478).
These direct observations which they called in the past as an omen or sign enabled them to make preparations on a day per day basis, but this very short term perception was not able to address the gradual onset of a drought and other natural phenomena. As the art of writing was discovered, people begun to document these observations on their environment and analyzed the collected data to make a more rational projection of the weather. These observations of phenomena and recording of facts have profoundly been useful in people’s formulation of theories.
And the idea’s behind the theories enabled people to explain the nature and/or the reasons why these phenomena occurs and also enabled them to make predictions based on their theories. (Shipman & Wilson, 1990, p. xvii). In this current time, great discoveries and new technologies in Science have afforded us to make accurate forecast about the weather not only in a short range, but also in mid and long range as well. Although we are no longer as helpless as our ancestors have been, in facing the elements, there is still a great need for us to continue our studies on changes in our physical environment as we are all directly affected by it.
Researches made in the last few decades have shown that “interactions between the atmosphere and ocean in the tropical belt of the Pacific Ocean” (World Meteorological Organization, 2006) have been a factor in changing the weather and climate patterns globally. In Volker Mrasek’s (2007) account for the Spiegel Online of the IPCC report, he stated that even the United States is at risk from the “growing risks and economic losses caused by rising seas, storms and floods” impacts brought about by extreme climate change.
Currently, this paper finds that the study of climate is not only important but imperative because it affects the ecosystem and even the extinction of species in extreme climate change. Although the study of climate covers a wide gamut of topics, this paper will basically be about the El Nino Southern Oscillation or what is commonly referred to as ENSO. What ENSO is and its impact on North American climate. This paper will also look into and examine other factors that affects North American climate.
This research paper have four objectives, foremost of these objectives is 1) to present the practical uses of the discoveries of science in climatology particularly in the field of ENSO. Scientists usually have the inclination to know why things happen, seeking answers to many questions, and through their exploration make discoveries, amassing a wealth of knowledge about the natural world around them, but they are not necessarily interested in the practical applications of his/her discoveries.
And even if they are, may not be able to communicate/ explicate this knowledge in terms that can easily be comprehended and put to practical use by users, decision-makers and other interested groups beyond the academe, the second objective is 2) to create greater awareness about the value of meteorological services during climate variability and specifically in the face of natural disasters caused by extreme changes in climate in saving lives and property, how it empowers us to make responsive, proactive, and relevant decisions, the third objective is 3) to examine the United Nations’ report (Spiegel, 2007) that in the past five decades some human activities are in part responsible for climate change and why e need to heed the call for drastic corrective measures now, and lastly the fourth is 4) to gain advocates for the advancement and continued scientific research now and in the future for ENSO and other meteorological services, and the need to actively participate in a cooperative interchange of ideas and findings with other countries we have a harmonious diplomatic relationship with and have the same objectives as we have, which is for the common good of human beings.
Literature Review The literature review is divided into four subtopics, addressing the four questions which this paper is seeking answers to; in the hope to better understand ENSO. ) What kinds of research have been done before? The Old and New Testament can be considered as one of the oldest books containing references about the weather. Ancient philosophers Hippocrates, Aristotle, Aristarchus and Erastosthenes have also made works on the subject of meteorology and/or climatology. However, the study of climate gained more ground in the 15th century when explorers begun to search for new lands across the seas, seeking for gold, spices, and lands to conquer, meteorological instruments invented by Galileo (thermometer) and by Torricelli (barometer) enabled men to measure the state of climate in different places and times.
It was in 1735 when Hadley interpreted observed circulation patterns in the topics which included the trade winds, tropical convection and sub-tropical deserts and is now known as the Hadley Cell. In 1883, as more discoveries on new laws on physics, instruments and inventions were made about the weather and climate, Hann was the first one to document these in a classic book entitled the Handbook of Climatology. While in 1918 it was Koppen who was the first to provide a detailed classification of world climates ushering the development of detailed studies in climatology. Observation on daily weather on local climates was tried by geographer Federov. Bergeron, Koppen and Geiger made major contributions on the discipline through their works on dynamic climatology, climatology handbook, and microclimatology respectively.
During the first three decades of 20th Century, Walker made combined mathematical theory with global observations about the atmosphere and was able to identify large-scale atmospheric patterns in his studies of the Indian monsoon, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Oscillation. (CCI-XIV Expert Team, 2007) 2) What relevant kinds of studies or techniques need to be mastered to do this project? In order to fully understand and comprehend the ideas discussed in this paper, terms should be defined to avoid confusion. In a literature found in the World Meteorological Organization website, and made by authors Andre, Garcia, de Melo a Abreu, Nieto, Prasad & White (2007), on climate and weather risk assessment for agricultural planning, Andre et al. gives us a clear picture of what weather and climate are when they discussed that weather can be described as “day-to-day variations in our atmosphere” and are short-term in nature, while climate a long-term-average of weather, can be described as estimates made on compilations of weather statistics of a region which includes “daily, monthly and annual means, medians and variability of the weather data”. (p. 1)
As stated in one of the reports of IPCC (n. d. ), that “the El Nino-Southern Oscillation is a natural part of the Earth’s climate”, authors Legler, Bryant, & O’Brien (1998), described ENSO as a variation from the normal tropical Pacific atmosphere-ocean phenomenon known as the Southern Oscillation. And in the study of Legler, et al. (1998) concerning impact of ENSO related climate anomalies on crop yields in the United States, the three phases of ENSO were identified and examined in relation with the crops yield.
These three phases were known as 1) warm events also known as El Nino a term to describe the abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean, 2) cold events also known as El Viejo or La Nina a term to describe the opposite of El Nino events and, 3) the neutral or non event. A more comprehensive way of defining ENSO can be found in the glossary of terms of the fifth technical paper of IPCC (Gitay, Suarez, Watson & Dokken, 2002). The paper stated that originally the term El Nino, refers to warm water current that periodically flows along the coast of Ecuador and Peru, and has disrupted the local fishery in the area. It further stated that this warming of the water current event when connected with fluctuations in the Southern Oscillation of the surface pressure pattern and circulation in the Indian and Pacific Oceans is now called as El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.
It was further described in the technical paper, (Gitay, et al, 2002) that “during an El Nino event, the prevailing trade winds weaken and the equatorial countercurrent strengthens, causing warm surface waters in the Indonesian area to flow eastward to overlie the cold waters of the Peru Current. ” And because of the “great impact on the wind, sea surface temperature, and precipitation patterns in the tropical Pacific” (p. 65), occurrences of such events have climatic effects not only in the Pacific region but also in other parts of the world. It have been shown in a study by Ropelewski & Halpert (1986) that the warm phase of ENSO have significantly impact the precipitation and temperature pattern on North America and in another study by Ropelewski & Halpert (1987) and other authors like Kiladis & Diaz (1989), ENSO have also impacted the precipitation and temperature pattern globally.