Highlights of Recent Research on Seasonal to Interannual
USGCRP-sponsored research continues to advance the predictive and
comprehensive understanding of seasonal to interannual fluctuations
in the climate, including the socioeconomic implications of applying
experimental predictions to agriculture and water management. The
FY96 edition of Our Changing Planet included a summary of recent
key findings. Highlights of more recent findings follow:
- The TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission is providing the first precise
global information on the state of the ocean. The instrument can
measure changes in ocean height, which is a good indicator of ocean
temperature and movement. This information is being used to test
the computer models that predict ENSO events. Testing and
refinement of the models is important, because ENSO events have
been shown to disturb the temperature and precipitation systems in
the tropics, lower latitudes, and parts of the United States, and affect
agricultural production, fisheries, and water resources.
- The USGCRP led the world in a critical step toward the development
of an International Research Institute for climate prediction that will
generate experimental forecasts of the ENSO phenomenon and make
them available for socioeconomic applications around the world.
Representatives of more than 40 countries and 20 international
organizations gathered in Washington, DC, to address the creation of
an IRI with the capability to transform scientific information into
products that can be applied in real-time to economic planning
associated with water management, agriculture, natural disasters,
and public health.
- The GEWEX Continental-Scale International Project is a multi-year
field experiment underway in the Mississippi River Basin. The
experiment focuses on improving predictions of changes in water
resources on monthly, seasonal, annual, and interannual time scales.
Considerable progress has been made in the development of better
representations of soil moisture and vegetation cover in regional
coupled models. While regional in design, GCIP findings are starting
to provide important information for the water and agricultural
sectors throughout the United States.
- A unique effort has been launched in the U.S. Pacific Northwest to
bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers with expertise
in water management, coastal activities, fisheries, forestry,
hydrologic modeling, institutional arrangements, and climate
prediction. The scientists are developing an integrated approach to
analyzing the impacts of seasonal to intradecadal climate variations
on different social, economic, and ecological sectors with the aim of
determining how climate forecasts can be used to improve decision
making in these sectors for the benefit of society.
- Preliminary analyses climate-crop relationships in Utah and Idaho
indicate that extreme values of precipitation and temperature have
the most significant impact on crop yields. These analyses further
demonstrate the impact of ENSO events on crop yields, rangeland
conditions, and the duration of forage harvest for grazing. A
framework for assessing the relationship between climate and land
use in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho,
Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming is now under development.