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Expect more El Niños

Mike Davis’s book Late Victorian Holocausts is most interesting for how it shows the ways European powers exacerbated the catastrophe of El Niño events in colonized parts of the world, and used the situation of drought, flooding, and famine to entrench colonial power and replace indigenous economies with imerpial capitalist ones, but the explanation of the science of El Niños is also good reading. If I recall correctly, it’s the Walker cycle that is the trigger for El Niños, and as it weakens, we should expect more frequent and more powerful events. That’s bad news. (Like you thought I might say otherwise.)

Washington Post; Thursday, May 4, 2006; Page A15

Pacific Current Is Weakening

A 10,000-mile air circulation pattern over the Pacific Ocean is getting weaker, threatening to shut down the easterly trade winds and starve fish, a new study said.

The most likely cause of the decline of the current, known as the Walker circulation, is human activity, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Miami said in today’s edition of the journal Nature.

The Walker circulation is one of the great cycles in the atmosphere. Air rises over Indonesia and falls near Ecuador, then flows back across the Pacific as an easterly trade wind. Weaker air flow makes surface currents in the water less powerful, reducing the intensity and depth of upwelling.

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