PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Government offers $14 million to aid 700,000 people threatened by drought and hunger. Australia adds $360,000. Coffee crop hit.
SOUTH AFRICA: Authorities fear an El Nino drought could halve the country's corn crop, costing more than $213 million in lost exports.
PERU: International aid banks have approved $300 million in loans for flood and drought prevention measures and reconstruction in Peru if disaster strikes.
MEXICO: Hurricanes and storms leave hundreds dead and thousands homeless on southwestern coast. Millions in damage. Intensity blamed on El Nino.
UNITED STATES: Southeastern coastal states have benefited from a dearth of Atlantic hurricanes. El Nino's influence suppresses storm development.
How it is tracked
The El Nino event in 1982-1983 was well under way by the time scientists noticed it. This year's event was detected 11 months ago thanks to a new arsenal of satellites, buoy arrays and sensors, all operated at an annual cost to the United States of about $5 million.
The instruments track developments across the Pacific hour by hour. Ocean and atmospheric conditions are transmitted to data centers and posted on the Internet almost immediately.
Key elements of the system:
A U.S./French satellite launched in 1992 to an altitude of 830 miles. Warm water expands, raising sea level slightly. TOPEX can detect these slight sea level changes and convert the data into temperature readings. Scientists can then map and track changing surface temperatures around the globe.
TAO (Tropical Atmosphere Ocean) Array
A system of 70 ATLAS buoys moored across the tropical Pacific. More than 7 feet wide and 16 feet tall, each buoy is anchored in up to 19,700 feet of water, with sensors as deep as 1,600 feet. They gather and relay data on wind, sunlight, air and water temperature, humidity and rain to shore stations via satellite.
Global Lagrangian Drifters
A squadron of more than 400 free-floating buoys deployed throughout the Pacific and around the world. They relay data on currents, sunlight, atmospheric pressure, water temperatures and salt content.
Climactic data is also gathered from instruments handled by volunteers on commercial ships, and installed at shore stations across the Pacific.
SOURCES: Associated Press, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; National Centers for Environmental Prediction; Reports to the Nation On Our Changing Planet; Todd Mitchell, University of Washington
Pub Date: 11/25/97