first_imgA double whammy of weird ocean behavior washed over the world in 1997. The Pacific Ocean had already succumbed to an exceptionally strong El Niño, and then the Indian Ocean was hit fiercely by El Niño’s close cousin: the so-called Indian Ocean Dipole. Surface waters off the coast of Indonesia cooled and the ocean’s predominant westerly winds reversed, leading to catastrophic weather. Fires raged across a drought-stricken Indonesia, and floods across east African nations killed thousands.Climate change could make years like 1997 come more often, according to a new study of the Indian Ocean Dipole cycle, which alternates between two opposite extremes, positive and negative, just as El Niño does with La Niña. The study suggests that rising greenhouse gases will cause extreme positive dipole events—like the one that struck the Indian Ocean in 1997—to occur three times as often this century as they did in the 20th century, or about once every 6 years, as opposed to once every 17 years.“The Indian Ocean Dipole affects a lot of poor countries,” says lead author Wenju Cai, a climate modeler at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Aspendale, Australia, who published the study with his colleagues online today in Nature. “We really need to build our capacity to deal with these kinds of events.” In January, Cai led a study that found that extreme El Niño events—a warming of tropical waters off the coast of Peru—were likely to double in frequency this century.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Shang-Ping Xie, a climate modeler at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, says he likes that the study team focused on providing information on a more local rather than global scale. “They took an important step in the direction of understanding regional climate extremes in a better way.”Cai and his colleagues examined 31 global climate models and found that 23 were able to model the rainfall conditions in the Indian Ocean that they used to define an extreme positive dipole event. As a control, they ran the models from 1900 to 1999 to see how well they reproduced extreme events in 1961, 1994, and 1997. Then they ran the models forward from 2000 to 2099 under the “business-as-usual” projections for rising greenhouse gases. Out of the 23 cases, only two did not show a rise in extreme dipole events. “We have a very strong intermodel agreement,” Cai says. Climate change, he says, causes the waters of the western Indian Ocean to warm more than other parts of the ocean, and this preconditions the area to more extreme dipole events.Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University in Palisades, New York, does not necessarily disagree with the researchers’ conclusions, but she is concerned that they model the Indian Ocean Dipole as being completely independent of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Studies have shown how an El Niño event can trigger a dipole event, and Goddard notes that two out of the three extreme dipole events, in 1994 and 1997, were preceded by El Niño. “They’re downplaying the role of ENSO,” she says.Cai insists that the dipole can arise independently of El Niño. He points out that in 2007 and 2008 there was a moderate dipole event even though La Niña was occurring, which ought to squelch the dipole event if it were so dependent on ENSO.Regardless, the dipole has the attention of people in Australia, where it has been linked to major bushfires in 1982 to 1983 (Ash Wednesday) and 2009 (Black Saturday) that killed hundreds. “The Indian Ocean Dipole is arguably more important to us,” he says. “It can cause big damages to these economies.”last_img read more

first_imgA report released Wednesday by the EPA’s Inspector General found the agency’s work in Bristol Bay regulating the development of proposed mines like Pebble has been unbiased and done without a predetermined outcome.Download AudioThe Nushagak District, shown in this June 2015 photo, is one of five commercial fishing districts in Bristol Bay. (KDLG photo)While the EPA’s role is currently being challenged by Pebble in federal court, the agency is touting the IG’s report as validation of its direction and efforts.EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran has been noticeably quiet over the past year and a half, declining KDLG-Dillingham’s frequent interview requests. On Wednesday morning, however, with affirmation of his team’s efforts in hand, he was eager to get back out in front of a story in the now long-running saga of EPA versus Pebble mine.“We feel very positive about the outcome and the findings,” McLerran said, speaking by phone from Oregon on Wednesday morning. “What the Inspector General confirms is that we conducted the assessment in compliance with all of our policies and procedures for ecological risk assessments, and that it was done appropriately, without bias and without prejudgment.”McLerran added that he has been advised against making too many public statements, on account of the federal lawsuit currently in its discovery phase. The EPA has also been temporarily ordered by the judge against taking further action toward finalizing its preemptive restrictions in the Bristol Bay watershed.The OIG evaluation, undertaken in May 2014, looked into whether McLerran’s staff had acted within EPA’s program guidelines, specifically between Jan. 1, 2008 and May 18, 2012. OIG staff interviewed more than two dozen people involved, but focused primarily on a keyword search of 8,352 emails of just three people:  McLerran, who is Obama’s appointee to the office; Nancy Stoner, EPA’s former Acting Assistant Administrator for Water; and Phil North, the EPA ecologist who has since retired (and disappeared).Pebble, which sent more than a dozen letters and hundreds of pages of documents to EPA’s Inspector General since the evaluation began, was quick to call it an “incredibly narrow investigation.”McLerran disagrees.“They did a very robust review of the communications back and forth, the correspondence, they did interviews, they looked at emails from a wide array of EPA employees and other folks including folks outside of EPA,” he said.“Given the serious issues that were raised here, the report was laughable,” said Pebble CEO Tom Collier on Wednesday morning. Collier has decades of Washington, D.C., experience in and out of government, and said he was disappointed not only in the findings, but also in EPA’s OIG.“To be only 30-something pages long, to not cite any of the really significant documents, it’s an outrage,” he said. “I don’t know what happened here, in this instance, but this report is clearly a whitewash, and I think it’s an embarrassment to IGs on good reputation around the country and at other agencies.”The OIG’s report wasn’t all praise for EPA’s efforts. It cites problems with Phil North, including his role in helping draft the 2010 letter from Bristol Bay area tribes requesting EPA’s intervention. The report is also critical of North’s use of a personal email account for government business. His personal emails were not turned over to OIG, despite a subpoena. Plus, 25 months worth of his government emails through the 52-month period under evaluation are gone, allegedly erased when his computer hard drive crashed. North was interviewed once by OIG, near the start of the process, but ignored further requests and ultimately a subpoena.Pebble, and federal court Judge H. Russell Holland, believe North was central to EPA’s intervention. McLerran said that’s not the case. “I want to be very clear, Phil North was not a central figure on this. I was a central figure, our Office of Research and Development scientists were central on this, the independent peer reviewers were central on this.” McLerran said the decision to initiate a 404c process was his to make, in consultation with EPA headquarters.Pebble has put together a long paper trail documenting North’s involvement, which has so far been enough to convince Judge Holland to subpoena him to appear for deposition. North left the U.S. after retirement, and has ignored requests subpoenas and requests for information from Holland, Congressional committees, and EPA’s OIG. He is believed to be living in Australia or New Zealand.“You know, I’m not surprised that Dennis McLerran, in order to save EPA’s decision, is throwing poor Mr. North under the bus,” said Collier. “It’s outrageous that that would be happening at EPA, but I guess that’s the only way they can defend their outrageous conduct here.”The OIG’s findings were well received by supporters of EPA’s work to block development of Pebble. It’s been a while since that process has seen any progress or had any good news. What difference the report will make at this point, like the Cohen report before it, is unclear. Right now the outcome of the agency’s efforts seem destined to be decided in federal court, in Congress, or perhaps in the hands of the next administration.last_img read more