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El Nino forecasting could aid fisheries management, disease control, marine species protection

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although predicting el Nino events months before they begin has become a major success story in climate prediction, a Duke University oceanographer who did early research in the field believes more could be done with the computer and satellite technology underlying these advances.

Richard Barber, who is Harvey W. Smith Professor of Biological Oceanography at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, will outline additional uses of el Nino forecasting at an 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20 symposium during the American Association for the Advancement of Science's 2005 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The additional uses he will discuss include managing fisheries, controlling outbreaks of tropical disease and protecting marine mammals and other ocean species.

That symposium will be held in the Palladian Room on the lobby level of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

El Nino gets its name from periodic changes in ocean currents that disrupt anchovy fishing off Peru around Christmastime. This worldwide alteration of the normal monsoon cycle changes wind and ocean temperature patterns in ways that lead to flooding in parts of the Americas, droughts in Australia , Southeast Asia and parts of Africa, and a tempering of the North Atlantic hurricane season.

Barber was part of an early multidisciplinary research effort called Coastal Upwelling Ecosystems Analysis that in 1971 began using scientific modeling to analyze the biological and physical changes behind what is more properly called the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

However, it took more than a decade, after 1983, before advances in supercomputing power and satellite technology allowed ENSO forecasting to "become one of the greatest success stories in American science," Barber said in an interview.

"With a small number of sensors we can now forecast what is going to happen with an ENSO nine months in advance with a great degree of certainty,"
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Contact: Monte Basgall
monte.basgall@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
20-Feb-2005


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