Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ecuador in new probe to see if climate change worsens El Nino

Terra Daily via AFP: Think Galapagos and you think nature in its most pristine expression. But the destructive weather phenomenon called El Nino turns coral reefs there a sickly white and sea iguanas scrawny. And now, in an unprecedented experiment, scientists using unmanned submarines in the waters off the Ecuadoran archipelago are probing whether global warming is related to El Nino.

There is not yet conclusive evidence of a link. But experts are very serious about the possibility that climate change is making El Nino -- unusually warm water in the Pacific off the west coast of South America -- more frequent and more intense.

For hundreds of years, the weather system at the Galapagos did not have to worry about global warming, said Eduardo Espinoza, head of maritime research at the Galapagos National Park. But climate change associated with human activity could turn El Nino into a death sentence for several marine species that are unique to the archipelago.

With future studies, it will become clear if global warming is making El Nino nastier and more frequent, said Espinoza. Located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast, the Galapagos Islands -- the natural laboratory that inspired Darwin's theory of evolution -- every now and then suffer with the arrival of El Nino. Besides warmer water, the phenomenon is also characterized by heavy rains and weaker winds....

A 2007 shot of the Galapagos, shot by Iris Diensthuber, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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