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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d95feb150

For many decades, the term El NiÑo has described an irregular appearance every few years of a pool of warm surface water that spreads across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, causing subsequent alterations in world weather patterns. But since the winter of 1976-77, the Pacific has been in an El NiÑo mode most of the time. It returned in full force in 1994, and the Northern Hemisphere is currently experiencing the third winter season in four years under its influence. This situation, unprecedented in the past 50 years, is leading to extreme warmth over eastern North America and heavy precipitation in California.

Many are beginning to wonder whether this unusual behavior is related to greenhouse warming. The question is still open, but a news article in Science (pp. 544-545, Oct. 28) discusses two recent climate model investigations that shed some light on this question (see PROF. PUBS./GEN. INTEREST). One shows that the tropical Pacific may be a key link in the mechanism of climate change from one decade to the next; the other reveals an unrelated oscillation in the winds and currents of the North Pacific Ocean that could be masquerading temporarily as greenhouse warming. The possible link between El NiÑo and greenhouse warming is also discussed in a feature article in Global Environ. Change Rep. (pp. 1-3, Jan. 13).

In January, the U.S. National Weather Service released highlights of its1994 Climate Assessment (to be published in March), showing that the estimated global mean temperature (over land areas) was 0.4┬ĚC above normal during 1994. This represents a return to levels experienced during the record warm years of 1990 and 1991. During 1992 and 1993, the cooling caused by particles from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo contributed to lower mean temperatures. For highlights of the assessment contact Public Affairs, Climate Analysis Center, Washington, D.C. (301-713-0622).

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