Clallam County, Sand Point Trail, West of Lake Ozette. On 10 July 1997 I observed an Osprey feeding on a Pacific mackerel. The bird was perched in a snag just off the trail leading to Sand Pont in the Olympic National Park. Although mackerel are known to occur off the Washingtoncoast, they are uncommon close to shore, and it is unlikely the Osprey took the fish more than a few hundred meters from the beach.-- Ron Jameson <


As you are aware rains and floods have been catastrophic in China, Europe, USA, Brazil, Chile, etc. Here in Peru, at the end of July, I am still in short sleeve shirt and except for social affairs have not worn a coat (August is normally our coldest month). Sunday and Monday were practically full summer days. On Monday I went to Lunahuana (42 km inland from Canete) and along the coast there were people on the beaches camping and swimming. Not even in the last "El Nino" (1982-1983) did we experienced such hot weather. In northern Peru (Tumbes, Piura,Lambayeque), authorities are taking full precautions to minimize flood damage, by cleaning river beds, culverts, constructing containing walls, etc. It is expected that "El Nino" should start manifesting itself sometime in September. It is to early to determine how seabirds are being affected. However, warm water fish have migrated south along the coast and the anchovy has likewise moved south and probably down searching for cold waters. The government has declared a ban on anchovy fishing, but not the Chileans. In the Andes from Ancash to Puno temperatures are the lowest in decades.So much so, that extreme drought is expected. Practically nothing has been published on what to expect in the Amazon basin. Those of you that may have access to satellite photos of the Pacific, conditions look bad for the future, but nobody has a crystal ball. I only hope that temperatures next summer (January/March) will not go above 32 degrees C. in Lima. This morning on TV it was reported 42 C somewhere in Argentina. <


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Press Release: Large Numbers of Seabirds Wash Ashore: Biologists Scramble to Solve Mysterious Die-Off

In two mysterious die-offs, birds continue to wash ashore along the Alaska Peninsula and on St. Lawrence Island. Murres and puffins have been found between Gambell and Savoonga and St. Lawrence Island. Dead kittiwakes, bald eagles and other species have been reported from Chignik to False Pass. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, Vivian Mendenhall, specimens are being collected from both areas for autopsy, which should help biologists determine the reasons for the die-off. She also says that die-offs from different locations and involving different kinds of birds may have different causes. Mendenhall says that they have not yet determined the cause of this die-off. Temporary die-offs in the past have often been due to lack of food or when ocean conditions are unusual. "However, it is important to investigate any unusual mortality and check out all possible causes," she said. In the meantime, biologists are considering the effect warmer temperatures could be having, since this year southwestern Alaska experienced an unusually early spring. The Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska are several degrees above normal temperatures this year, which biologists say affects the marine ecosystem, including birds. "Unusual water conditions can change the birds' food supply," Mendenhall said. In May of this year, large numbers of murres died in the area of Etolin Strait, off northeastern Nunivak Island. "Seabird die-offs are not uncommon," Mendenhall said. "They have been observed every decade or two in northern countries." According to Mendenhall, seabird die-offs studied so far have not affected populations significantly. "We plan to combine local information and our studies of specimens to explain what's causing our birds to die this time. We especially need help with counting the birds," Mendenhall said. Mendenhall says that anyone with information should contact her at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage at (907)786-3517, or biologist Karen Laing at (907)786-3459.


Virginia Aleck from Chignik Lake called yesterday to mention the large numbers of dead birds they are seeing on the Alaska Peninsula coast in the areas of Chignik Lake and also Perryville. She specifically mentioned finding shearwaters, "whale birds" (fulmars, right?), murres, and gulls. She also mentioned bald eagles and a poor return of salmon to the Kametolook River. (Stan Senner)


A few 'floaters' were noted including one dead Baird's Beaked Whale (very old male), and seven dead Walrus. The Walrus carcasses were initially throught attibutable to probable natural mortality given the relative close proximity (60-100nm) to the huge Round Island rookery in northern Bristol Bay. However, now in light of concern regarding dead seabirds and current very warm waters in the Bering Sea this summer makes me reconsider that something more sinister may be going on; the current El Nino a contributing suspect. Casually stumbling across 7 dead walrus in just a few days seems like quite a few and suggests that there were many more floating around out there. Sea temperatures 61F (13C) in coastal Bristol Bay?!?! 10F (~6C) above normal! A few dead seabirds, mostly fulmars, shearwaters, and murres were seen belly up, but these seemed like a natural kind of mortality with the encounter rate subjectively not thought to be unusal in these waters where seabird densities can be phenomenal. Incredible weather during the first half -- often flat becalmed mirror-like Beaufort 00 with nary a ripple from horizon to horizon in an extensive area of eerie and bizarre aurora-aqua green water (looked like an over chlorinated swimming pool) which no one can seem to explain at the moment, except that it was warmer (59F / 12.3C) and less saline than surrounding sea water outsidet his visually well marked and extensive zone -- maybe a dome of plankton soup and pack ice melt(?) ... but if so, why warmer'? ...or run-off, but from where? -- there are no large rivers or glacial drainage feeding into that area to create a feature as vast as this, but it was in just these waters where the greatest concentrations of large whales and Harbor Porpoise were including the Right Whales and that unexpected group of White-sided Dolphins. Anyway, after analysis of water samples and a little more investigation, we should get it sorted out eventually. This water was so pale and bizarre that it reflected off the overcast, creating a feature reminiscent to "ice blink" of polar ice edge, but here, turning the clouds aqua and horizon a purple haze. With 80,000+ hours at sea over the past 25 years, I've never seen anything like it. This was so weird with a greasy feel as to border on nauseating at times. Conditions were more "typical" Bering Sea during the second half -- always overcast, off and on foggy, drizzly, and a 15-20-knot wind chop.Richard Rowlett ( VIA SEABIRD


This is the address for SST anomalies on the web: You will note that the Gulf of Alaska and the Coast of Peru are now the two most anomalous places on the planet in terms of hot seas. The two may not be related. What is a warm winter going to do to bird and fish overwintering survival? D. Duffy <


During the weekend we had an unusual 'freaje' that came along the Andes, along the coast, and part of Amazonia. In Lima we had a temperature drop slightly below 20&deg; C. Lots of rain for us during three days. 40 km winds that created a dust storm in parts of Lima, blew corrugated roofs and some trees. Between Casapalca and Morococha at Ticlio there was a storm that accumulated snow more than one meter in places. The Misti in Arequipa is covered with snow all the way down. Two days ago in Cuzco there some snowflakes. Along the Andes temperatures 0&deg; or below. Some people froze.. The high parts are all covered with snow blocking the high roads for hours or days. Today I learned that the road between Puquio and Challapallca (Ayacucho) has the greatest amount of snow and is totally blocked. Juliaca is also heavily covered with snow. Strong winds in places from Cajamarca south."Plenge, Manuel" <


We've had two rain storms in past 10 d; pretty weird, beats even the '83 incident. Had a frigate bird and a dark-rumped petrel here and about as well. David Ainley <<


Excerpted from FSNET (D. Powell, Univ. Guelph): The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning against eating live oysters from Washington state, which may have higher levels of bacteria due to a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. The FDA was quoted as saying, "Oysters from Washington State should be thoroughly cooked," adding the oysters should be boiled in water three to five minutes after the shells open and steaming live oysters four to nine minutes in a steamer that's already steaming. About 40 illnesses were reported in California and Washington state due to the consumption of raw oysters, the FDA said. An additional 100 cases have been reported in British Columbia leading to the closing of harvesting areas in that region. FROM: ProMED-mail<


I just spent the summer working for Chris Thompson at Wash Fish and Wildlife, where one of the projects I was working on was collecting data on seabirds washing up on the beaches on the southern Olympic Peninsula. I recorded over 1500 Common Murres and dozens of other species. Thomas Good <


I am a biologist at Point Reyes Bird Observatory currently working on the Farallon Islands off San Fransisco and thought you may be interested in recent events possibly concerning ENSO: * 30 year record SST of 19.2 deg.C on 8/26/97 * during 82-83 ENSO SST reached 18.8 deg.C * Mahi Mahi, Swordfish, and large Albacore schools near the islands in August * Warm water conditions did not significantly affect seabird breeding in 1997 as productivity was average for most species. Michelle Hester <


. . . One more note on the cormorant news story. The reason, I think, that this is getting so much attention at this time (it is a chronic problem) is that the numbers of recent hookings (of seabirds, ed) are so high. A lot of us scientists think this is a sign of the El Nino conditions in combination with a good year of productivity from the birds (I know this to be so for brown pelicans at least) and we are waiting for more data. Then another question to ponder: what do you do with all those starving birds that are expected? "Daniel W. Anderson" < VIA SEABIRD


I think it's important to place on record the "non-anomalies" as well: our Brown Noddies in the Caribbean had a completely normal breeding season in 1997, and did extremely well (typical for our study site). John Chardine<John.Chardine@EC.GC.CA


My name is Jorge l.B. Albuquerque. I am Prof of Biology and an Ornithologist living in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil. My town is an island in south Brazil. I am observing a extensive droughT in our area. All started in our summer (DEC-MAR). It extended until July. Several trees which regularly flower during this season did not produce any flowers. Recently (late May) we experienced a big ocean storm which produced waves up to 3-4 meters along our coast. This was a very unusual event. In August a few rains started. People who are watching El Nino expect lots of rains, inundations by November. Dr. Jorge L.B. Albuquerque <


I have just returned from Johnston Atoll, 16 N 169 W. for the first time since the 1982-83 ENSO when we began working there, there has been no effect from this current ENSO event. Usually I see reduced growth in several species of chicks and increased chick mortality.This has not happenend, although local water water temps. are warmer than ususal. This lack of effects is very unexpected and may be involved with the early onset timing of this event? I have heard from Peru that there is extensive seabird mortality occurring along the coast, and has been for several months.


Our research team has been studying the breeding colony of Humboldt Penguins at Algarrobo, Chile since 1994. While there have been a number of times when heavy rains have effected the breeding success of birds in this colony, the entire colony was washed-out by rains in April-May 1997. Whether this was a random event or associated with this ENSO event is not known. However, we hope this information, looked at as a part of the bigger picture may help determine which is true. Ed Diebold <


We've been seeing some interesting pelagic birds here on the Central Coast of California over the last couple of weeks; magnificent frigatebirds and the like. I'll forward on posts from the Monterey County rare bird alert when they contain reports of unusual birds that may be associated with El Nino. Peggi Rodgers <


CNN reports that Peruvian Brown Pelicans have invaded the town of Arica, northern Chile, swelling the population from 200 to 4,000. Pelicans tie up traffic as they wander down streets looking for food. Many are being run over or dying when they fly into electric lines. (Similar behavior occurred in past ENSO events in Peru when pelicans of the same species would invade markets to scavenge and steal food. Mass mortality of pelicans and other seabirds is a routine result of ENSO events off Peru and Chile.--ed). CNN Web site <


warm (68 degrees F) off of Fort Bragg, California and someone caught a sailfish there! This is obviously highly unusual.


The edge of a very active portion on the ITCZ is just south , ca 80 miles of Panama City with very heavy storm activity on a line from the Costa Rican border eastward touching the Azuero Peninsula and SE Darien provience. To the west, a portion of this very active ITCZ seems to be tearing off forming a Pacific Hurricane. Too early but if so, more Dry weather for Pacific lower Central America. The whole general area is under low pressure so little wind expected but if ITCZ shifts up 80-100 miles to north, then very heavy rain. Neal Smith


The Peruvian government reinstated a coastwide ban on anchovy fishing, based on lowered harvests related to El Niño conditions. Dow Jones News. --Jeff June <


Chilean officials imposed a 30-day ban, beginning August 15, on anchovy fishing in 2 northern regions due to El Niño effects. Dow Jones News. --Jeff June <


AP reported that Alaska vessels began delivering albacore tuna to Kodiak processors from a fishery about 1,200 miles south of Kodiak. The unregulated high seas fishery was reported to have grown from about 35 vessels in 1996 to about 200 vessels in 1997. --Jeff June <


I forgot to mention that at the beginning of August, there was a sighting of two Magnificent Frigatebirds 1/2 mile off the coast of Rio Del Mar (near Santa Cruz) which puts them just about at the outer edge of the bay. (additional bird records also available).-- Peggi & Ben Rodgers <


AP reports The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against eating live oysters from WA state, which could have elevated bacterial levels due to warmer waters. About 40 cases of illness in CA and WA as well as another 100 cases in British Columbia have been reported and attributed to consumption of raw oysters. --Jeff June < Contact Ben Gale for more info <ben_gale@comlink.DPH.SF.CA


AP reports Kodiak AK fishermen fishing on tuna with the SST (Sea surface temperature) in the Gulf of Alaska up to 64 degrees F, rather than the usual 54 - 55 d. Also a pelagic armorhead , normally a fish species of the "central Pacific", was caught off Kodiak. California anchovies were found in salmon (species not given) stomachs off Yakutat, southeast Alaska with SSTs at 63 o, rather than the normal "mid-50s".


Re seat-of-the-pants observations on the seabirds nesting on Tatoosh Island, WA during the 97 season (in other words, the data have not been properly worked up yet...), levels of attendance and productivity appear to be at or higher than any other year in the 1990's for species we follow: fork-tailed storm-petrels, glaucous-winged gulls, pelagic and double-crested cormorants, and common murres. No sign of starvation, either adults washing up, or chicks starving. Species composition of fish fed to murre chicks did not change substantively from 1996. Radio-telemetered murre parents foraged within range of our receivers (about 7 -10 km) approximately 80% of the time (i.e. they aren't going very far for food). Breeding phenology was within the range of dates of previous years for all species. In short, the 'obvious' signs of ENSO's effects on upper trophic level marine species: death, decreased attendance, and reproductive failure, were not apparent. Maybe next year. --Julia K. Parrish


A Sooty Tern was reported again (last report was in early August), off of the Silver Strand State Beach, between the cities of Imperial Beach and Coronado. The bird was foraging on the ocean side with Elegant Terns, and was later seen flying off to the Southwest over the ocean. --Douglas Aguillard <


I was out at Cordell Bank a couple of days ago, and I can't remember ever seeing the water around here so icy blue. Looked like a real desert. Should have seen a few thousand Cassin's Auklets, but probably didn't see 100. Low numbers of everything else as well, except Sabine Gulls moving through. Pretty good numbers of humpbacks and blues. Don't know how they're making a (Burr Heneman)


A 125 lb striped Pacific marlin was caught by two sport albacore fishermen fishing about 20 miles southwest of Westport, Washington. According to the WDFW, it is the first recorded catch of a marlin on sport gear off the Washington Coast. --Jeff June <


Karen Gryzbowski and I are members of the team working on a project at Algarrobo (central Chile), and were there this past May and June. We can send you specific dates etc, if you need them, but essentially torrential rains that persisted for approximately 6 weeks caused nearly total abandonment of the colony at Algarrobo. Alejandro Simeone and Mariano Bernal, who have been monitoring the island for us, stated that prior to the storms in May, there were over 200 active nests on the island. By the time I left June 24th, we found one bird with two chicks remaining. ("Island" also includes the rock breakwater extending from the east side of the island). This bird had its nest in a very protected rock crevice on the eastern aspect of the island. Many of the dirt burrows collapsed from the rains, but the waves were so high that a majority of the south side of the island was flooded by the ocean itself. -- Roberta Wallace <


Keep an eye out for official southern Nevada rainfall records. In the last 3 days, several places around here appeared to have gotten 50 to near 100% of their normal annual rainfalls (e.g., Pahrump, NV; 4.5 inches in a few hours).--James L. Boone <, URL:


This has been an unusually wet summer on the eastern slope of the Washington Cascades. We've had "significant" (more than a trace) rain events several times each month when our usual pattern is some rain in June, then dry until late September or early October. These rain events haven't been the afternoon thunderstorms that occasionally pop up over the mountains, but seem to be associated with monsoonal flows from the south. Sorry I don't have "hard" data, but that shouldn't be too difficult to obtain. My field crews have been soggy all summer when usually they're dusty.--Ann Camp <


We're following ENSO as it develops here in San Diego. From the San Diego view, it's been weird weather. We've had very high humidity, thunderstorms and big floods in the deserts way west (in our desert, not AZ's), with water closing a major freeway in the desert (I-15 near Barstow) in the past week. There have been big thunderhead in San Diego's mountains. We're also experiencing heat, and lots of it and the ocean off here is some 10-20 deg warmer than normal. There are big sport fishing catches of mahi mahi and albacore swimming close to shore! In short, we've turned into the tropics. --Barry Costa Pierce


I am 45 miles s. of San Francisco, CA. It is reported on TV weather/news that the waters off San Francisco are unusually warm. One report was 10 degrees F. over normal; another report said 6 degrees F over normal. It is causing problems (potential) for the fish at the Seaquarium (presumably Monterey Aquarium-ed.) in the area as they use sea water in the tanks; and it's hotter than the fish are accustomed to. I live in Half Moon Bay; and some people are complaining about El Niño. They say because the water here is warmer, we are not getting our fog and usual breeze (caused from the cool, ocean air rushing in to the warmer inland air); and that it is muggy even when breezy.--C. W. Gilbert <


It appears as if things are beginning to take off on the Oregon coast, with dead murres starting to wash up. I was informed today by a colleague at our Newport (OR) marine science center that the intake water recently was measured at 68o F, which is phenomenally warm for our coastal waters.-- Jesse Ford


My observations are anecdotal in the sense that I have made no attempt at comparison to long-term data. However, here in north-central Florida we seem to be experiencing an unusually dry summer. We have not had significant rain in at least 2-3 weeks. Afternoon rainstorms typically are experienced 2-3 per week (or so) but this year seem more sporadic and infrequent.--Terry J. Doonan <


You could certainly argue there is an ENSO component to the current forest fires in Indonesia (particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan), and that crop yields in parts of Java may be low due to drier than normal conditions.--Radley Horton <


Rumor among state agencies in California is that the fall run of Chinook up the Sacramento River started during the first week of August. Nearly 7-8 weeks earlier than average. Unfortunately, I do not have confirmation of this as I heard about it from a staffperson at the CA Dep't of Forestry. Perhaps you have contacts in the CA Dep't of Fish and Game that could shed light as to the accuracy of this. Russ and Martha <


I have just come back from my honeymoon in Guatemala (a fantastic time) and have a couple of couple of anomalies there to report. The first is the massive decline in fishing hauls on the Pacific coast this year, a fact which fisherman blame on the anomalously cool waters. The second is a significantly smaller amount of rain falling in the currently building wet season. While this was pleasurable for honeymooners, locals are concerned for the replenishment of above and ground water supplies for the typically grueling dry season ahead. I hasten to note that the source of this information is local newspaper reports and essentially 'word on the street' from locals.-- Andrew Oliphan <, presently at <


Beached emaciated Short-tailed Shearwaters and Thick-billed Murres were found in the Point Hope region of the Chukchi Sea in late August. Reasons for the die-off are unknown as is the magnitude of the event. Representatives of the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management conducted ground counts and collected samples. George J Divoky <


AP reports federal fisheries experts told the annual American Fisheries Society meeting that "El Niño" may devastate salmon and other fish stocks on the West Coast. Jim Martin, salmon expert with the Oregon governor's office, said, "We should really pay attention to this one."--GrassRoots:


The most notable personal event was yesterday. I body surfed without a wet suit for the first time since 1983 on a local beach. We have some warm water, and more importantly no coastal winds. It was pretty good. Jan Hodder (Charleston OR) <


1- A sea fish (triple tail) was caught off the L.A. coast. This is only the 2nd one caught here on record. According to the reports, the fish is normally found south of 20 oN.

2- A mahi mahi was caught off the San Francisco Bay area.--Steven Young <


AP reports that Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria have become a problem in west coast shellfish because of recent warm water conditions "associated with the weather trend known as El Niño", leading to a voluntary ban on raw shellfish.


I would like to add to the information on Central America's western coast and the central valley of Costa Rica. Exceptionally dry weather for what is normally out wet or rainy season. Running from mid May through mid December (usually). This year we have gotten much less rain than usual. On the eastern slopes, there has been flooding and much heavier rain than usual. I returned from the coast yesterday where the locals have commented on much higher temperatures than normal (and very rough seas - probably due to Typhoon Linda at the time).--Marcos Bogan-Miller



Elephant seal in Valdez. "We received an initial report on 7/28/97 about a seal hauled out in the small boat harbor of Valdez. the seal turned out to be an elephant seal in molt, likely a juvenile male elephant seal which does molt during that time period and typically would haul out for variable periods of time over the span of 3-4 weeks to complete its molt. However, they are not typically found nearshore in that area of Alaska. We also had reports through 8/12 . It did have some healed scars, perhaps predator bites but was otherwise in apparently good physical condition. I do not have subsequent reports; although after that date we had given people in Valdez more information on why it was there and as a result the reports may have decreased. I do not know the current whereabouts."-- Kaja Brix <


Media reports 19 cases (nine deaths) of Hanta virus in Punta Arenas, Coihaique, Santiago, Iquique, and Arica, Chile. Peru was taking action against rats in Tacna, a coastal town in Peru. Rainfall in normally desert coastal Peru and northern Chile may have led to major population increases in the rodent vectors of Hanta virus.--ed.)--Dave Coder < from El Comercio and Chip News, via ProMED.


Recently, on a salmon fishing trip to Milne Bank Sound, we witnessed some unusual things. According to the fishing guides, we were catching an unusual number of mackerel, 1-3lb. range., These were all caught within 50 meters of the shoreline. The blue shark, (4.5Ft.), caught by my brother was also within the 50m. zone. Regular sightings of large "SUN" fish, I personally saw 4, were not unusual.But having them in the area apparently is. Water temp. was not measured except by feel, I think it was warm enough to swim in, comfortably. Noticeable lack of water fowl.--Erik Virs <


"Just last week, a Tiger Shark was reported just north of Wakinosawa, Japan. This was in the local newspapers and was caught by the local fisherman in their nets."--Dave Beacham <


Drought and frost have devastated agriculture, especially coffee and palm oil, in the PNG highlands. Mining operations have also ceased because of low water levels. The drought is the worst in 25 years, in an area where normal rainfalls are more on the order of 10 meters/year.from Reuters.


Washington State- Unusual records of fishes continue after the landing of a striped marlin last week (first state record, northern range extension. There have been several unconfirmed reports of yellowfin tuna off Pacific Beach and the Columbia River, a likely report of yellowtail from Westport, many reports of Pacific mackerel off the coast and in Puget Sound, possible California Barracuda off Willipa Bay, and ocean sunfish as far north as Neah Bay. None of these are range extensions but certainly responses to El Ni=F1o.--Wayne A. Palsson <


We have been a very hot and dry late winter here in southeastern Brazil. Temperatures at Sao Paulo city have been commonly at 30 C and sometimes over during the past weeks, and air moisture has been unusually low, having reached around 15% several times during the past week, something unrecorded before. Overall the winter has been warm above average, with temperatures over 25C common at the coast during most days. We are still waiting for rain; low moisture levels have helped some (usually very humid) Atlantic forest areas to burn along the coast.--Fabio Olmos & Rita Cerqueira Ribeiro de Souza <


Rio de Janeiro recorded its hottest winter day in 75 years and hottest day since 1984 at 108o F, a result of a strong high pressure zone that blocks cold fronts during ENSO events.--Earthweek, Chronicle Features.


I have not seen as many Brown Boobies as I did last year in the beaches of =46lorianopolis, Santa Catarina, south Brazil. This species breeds here on one island off coast. Jorge L.B. Albuquerque <


This summer at the foot of the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains (Colorado Springs) has been much wetter than normal. Our vegetation is still green while it is usually brown at this point in the season most years.--Jim Ebersole <


We have also had a report of a 400 lb turtle caught in a seine net off of Gravina Is in southern southeast AK. It was live and was released. No other information provided. No spp ID.--Kaja Brix <


Roger Stone, an agricultural climatologist with the Queensland government, suggested that "extreme statements' from scientists about the coming ENSO event had triggered suicides in the Australian agricultural community. Recent rains have broken a drought that had threatened eastern Australia's wheat crop. Officials still predict a 28 % reduction in winter crops compared to the previous year. Stone suggested that there is not a direct relationship between strength of an ENSO event and rainfall in Australia, so the present event may not spell doom for Australia's crops. He gave no details of the alleged ENSO-triggered suicides. after Reuters


A 70 lb Opah, Lampris regius, was caught recently by a local party boat. I think too much is being made of opah landings as ENSO indicators as this species follows "warm" currents throughout the temperate and subtropical Pacific. Other more unusual sightings are more significant: blue sharks closer to our shores, albacore two miles to shore as opposed to the expected 40 miles, numerous sightings of Orcas, more frequent leatherback turtle sightings. I would like to confirm the early pulse of Sacramento River Fall Run Chinook returning unusually early (6-8 weeks). This was confirmed today by a colleague at the Cal Dept of Water Resources. However until the full run is accounted for over time we won't know the significance of the early numbers. Without question the seas are very warm: we are averaging 16-18 degrees C. Normally we could expect an average around 12-14 with the occasional drop to 10. We have heard of sea surface temps as high as 20 close to shore but I can't confirm this. Last night at 7:30 I took a swim in the cove on the Lab's property and I was sweating in my wet suit. There was a juvenile young-of-the-year gray whale in the cove which is unusual for this time of year. I wanted to see if there was an out-of-season bloom of some prey item like one of the larger crustaceans but the I didn't see anything out of the ordinary other than unusually dense phytoplankton.--Paul Siri <


Some information regarding the current warm water influx into the waters off the coast of southern California. Indications of a strong El Ni=F1o hav= e become more apparent in the last few weeks, particularly within the Santa Barbara Channel. Hammerhead sharks (a warm water species seldom seen this far north) have been sighted between Anacapa Island and Yellow Banks (Smugglers Cove), Santa Cruz Island. Yellowfin tuna are consistently being caught off Santa Barbara Island (this is a subtropical species - commercial and recreational landings of yellowfin tuna increased dramatically during the 82-83 El Ni=F1o when large numbers migrated into the SCB from waters off Mexico). Water temperatures in the Channel are unusually warm. The huge balls of krill, seen consistently at this time of year (especially during the last few years) when the blue/fin/humpbacks arrive in the area, have not been seen. Most of the boats that are consistently out at the northern Channel Islands have not seen the numbers of whales they have in the past few years at this time. Most of this information has been obtained from local fisherman.--Rick Spaulding


FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will meet 14 - 15 October in Los Angeles with 28 federal agencies to prepare a response to potential ENSO problems, like increased typhoon risk for Hawaii, wet and cold winters for the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico, and floods in California.-- Knight-Ridder Newspapers


A preliminary cruise of our data shows record densities of adult marbled murrelets in Prince William Sound in June-July 1997. Unlike previous years, most of the highest counts were in early June instead of late July. The density of juveniles in July-August, however, was roughly equal to or lower than in 1994-96. One possibility is that murrelets came into the Sound from other areas. The murrelets were feeding primarily on sand lance and juvenile herring-- both of which appeared to be more available, if later, than in the past. Also more numerous were mixed-species foraging flocks, with murrelets sometimes in the hundreds. Altogether a different kind of summer on several levels--particularly the t-shirt and sandals working conditions.--Kathy Kuletz (


I mentioned previously that tuna was running here early. I got the story from a good source today. It is albacore; and it usually begins to run here in August, but this year it started running in June. That is, the local fisherman have been catching it since June.--C. W. Gilbert <


The following is a report from the Monterey Bay RBA for September 12 th: A late report was received today of a FRIGATEBIRD seen by a kayaker off of Cannery Row on Wednesday.--Peggi Ben & Peggi Rodgers <


PNG highlanders are abandoning their villages as drought and brush fires devastate crops in the worst drought in 50 years. They are reportedly eating wild berries and tubers normally reserved for pigfood. The local press claim that forty people are said to have died of starvation but the government denies these reports. The situation appears chaotic, with limited communication with the Highlands and with supply planes unable to land because of smoke from fires. The Red Cross expects conditions to continue to deteriorate over the next few months. from Reuters


Southern Africa's rainfall is expected to be normal this year in Tanzania, Malawi and Mauritius, but below normal in South Africa, southern Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland, because of the ongoing ENSO event. Not all ENSO events cause drought in southern Africa. Drought conditions usually begin later in the growing season. based on a a report by Emelia Sithole, Reuters.


I am not sure whether this is relevant, but I have been closely monitoring a population of yellow-eyed penguins since 1980. 1)The 1982-83 El Ni=F1o was a non event for this species. 2)There was a diet switch (preferred food absent) in 1985-86 which resulted in about 15% adult mortality, and all of the juveniles from the 1984 cohort. As far as we are aware only one chick appears to have survived from the 1985-86 cohort. 3)In 1989-90, 52% of all adult birds died. We really do not know why, although it has been suggested that this was avian malaria. Because most of the adults died prior to their chicks fledging, again we have only ever recovered two 1989-90 chicks on the whole of the mainland of New Zealand. 4) In late Dec 1996 two breeding adults died unexpectedly. A further two deaths early January led to autopsies. These birds and another 80 odd breeding adults died by the end of February. These birds showed the same symptoms- or lack of them as did the mortality of 1989-90. We suspect a biotoxin-Okadaic Acid??????. Deaths peaked in the second week of =46ebruary--most chicks got away. Another 26 birds died, mainly from foot injuries caused by sharks?. A fisherman observed that it was "wall to wall" blue sharks around the Otago Peninsula. Mean weight of unexplained deaths was 4.5 kg. Starvation weights for this species are 2.7-3.2.-- John Darby <


Some ENSO news from the Farallones: Sea surface temperature hit a 30-year (since PRBO occupation) record of 19.4 C at Southeast Farallon Island off San Francisco on 28 August, although this apparently was not directly related to the upcoming ENSO. One recent theory has it that the lack of a marine layer this August is what caused the water to become so warm off California. What caused the lack of a marine layer is a big question; it may be indirectly related to the ENSO event, e.g., through shifting, Pacific-wide pressure centers. =46airly persistent northwest winds have cooled it off to about 17 C during the past week, which is still setting records for August. There have been no tropical seabirds (boobies, frigates, tropics) here yet but we're looking hard. The big news for seabirds here is the continued return of Pacific sardines, aided by (but perhaps not directly related to) warm-water events. With this year's warm water there have been more sardines than ever. Large flocks of Brandt's Cormorants (~20K), Western Gulls (~8K) and diving Brown Pelicans (~2K) have been feeding around the island continuously on sardines (as confirmed with baitfish jigs) for the past two weeks. For the first time this year I have also seen Tufted Puffins feeding near the island - on sardines - and bringing them into nest crevices. This could well be the start of a return by puffins here to abundances recorded before the sardine crash (e.g., thousands recorded by Dawson in 1911).--Peter Pyle <


Shearwaters are 20 -30 % underweight, with a shift of diet from adult euphausiids to juvenile euphausiids and squid. Shearwater numbers are down several orders of magnitude and there appears to be substantial mortality. Waters are milky green because of coccolithophore blooms. Summary of phone conversation with George Hunt <


Tumbes, northern Peru. "I live in the beach, in the northmost point in Peru. Sea surface temperatures are 5 C higher than normal. Most of the days are sunny. We are getting scattered rains eventually. There is high mortality rate in pelicans probably due to the lack of food. Fishermen are turning to shrimp instead of the normal cold water species."--Gerd Burmester <


Pacific Ocean sea-surface height measurements and atmospheric water vapor information taken from two independent Earth-orbiting satellites are providing more convincing evidence that the weather-disrupting phenomenon known as El Ni=F1o is back and strong= . "The new data collected since April 1997 confirm what we had earlier speculated upon and what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted -- a full-blown El Ni=F1o condition is established in the Pacific," said Dr. Lee-Lueng Fu, project scientist for the U.S./French satellite TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA. "The recent data are showing us that a large warm water mass with high sea-surface elevations, about six inches (15 centimeters) above normal, is occupying the entire tropical Pacific Ocean east of the international date line. In fact, the surface area covered by the warm water mass is about one-and-a-half times the size of the continental United States," Fu said. "We watched this warm water mass travel eastward from the western Pacific along the equator earlier this spring. Right now, sea-surface height off the South American coast is 10 inches (25 centimeters) higher than normal, which is comparable with the conditions during the so-called 'El Ni=F1o of the century' in 1982-83." In addition, recent atmospheric water vapor data collected from NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) show tell-tale signs of an El Ni=F1o condition in the tropical Pacific Ocean. "The Microwave Limb Sounder experiment on UARS is detecting an unusually large build-up of water vapor in the atmosphere at heights of approximately eight miles (12 kilometers) over the central-eastern tropical Pacific. Not since the last strong El Ni=F1o winter of 1991-92 have we seen such a large build-up of water vapor in this part of the atmosphere," said JPL's Dr. William Read. "Increased water vapor at these heights can be associated with more intense wintertime storm activity from the 'pineapple express', a pattern of atmospheric motions that brings tropical moisture from Hawaii to the southwestern United States."--NASA press release.

On-going NOAA advisories on El Ni=F1o conditions are available on the Internet at: URL:


Visit this url for information on the effects of ENSO on the Midwestern US:


The Southern African Development Community will hold two meetings in December to assess the effect of ENSO this year.


El Niño in Galapagos, an unusual one. It started in February-to-March with a prolonged warm season. This is, SST and air temperature with an anomaly of +4-5 degrees (26-28 degree instead a 21-22 in normal years). Air temperature follow the sea here in Galapagos, same patterns in ENSO years. February, March, May and April behaved as a strong ENSO (thermocline down to 200 feet), SST up to 29-30 degree in places and heavy rainfall between March-June. But the rain stopped in July. SST carried on like ENSO but no rainfall, almost as dry as a normal year. In fact this month is behaving as should be, "garua season" or misty/drizzle season. The sea is unusually heavy, with big waves and strong wind, and extremely high tides. No clear effects on seabirds and mammals. No mortalities of marine iguanas. Heavy fishing (lots of it illegal), some warm waters species of fish moved into the internal waters (dolphinfish, wahoo, billfish), that normally are only found in the northern side of the archipelago. Good year for finches.--Rodrigo H. Bustamante <


The outbreak of Hanta virus (60% mortality, 19 cases) appears to be centered in the south, around Aysen, with one mortality from Arica in the desert North. The outbreak appears associated with population explosions of rats.--ProMED-mail <


During (June 12 to August 12) geoarchaeological field studies of ENSO-induced paleoflood deposits in the region of Puerto Ilo (c. 17 degrees S. Lat.), the following anomalous conditions were observed: unusually high daily temperatures; high incidents of coastal winds out of the north, versus south; a high incidence of sunny days and clear nights versus normally foggy conditions below 1500 masl; an incident of day time showers on the Clemsi desert between Moquegua and Arequipa; the lowest snow fall levels in the Arequipa region "in a generation." Desert stands of lomas vegetation, normally sustained by fogs, were not blooming, and cormorants had begun starving by mid August. In August there were a number of very severe day-time dust storms in the Ilo region unlike anything I observed during the 82-83 or 72-73 El Niño events.--M.E. Moseley <


This summer has been much wetter than normal here in Modoc County, and from Pacific Northwest storms, not the usual summer thunderstorms. Northern goshawk breeding success was very low this year throughout northeastern California, with many pairs moving to new nests or disappearing (perhaps not breeding at all). 82-83 goshawk records are sparse, but it looks like 82 was an average year, 83 was a good year.--Matt Schweich <


Some information from a conversation I had today with Bob Johnson, ADF&G Sport Fish biologist out of Yakutat, Alaska:Great White shark - seen in Yakutat Bay among commercial nets Blue Shark - also seen in Yakutat BayYellowfin Tuna - washed ashore near Yakutat - to my knowledge neverbefore seen this far northAlso several sightings in the Situk River of an unusual bright yellow fish.-- Susan Walker <


numbers. Other seabird numbers also low but do not appear to be as worse for wear.--Bruce Nothing manifesting itself w.r.t ENSO affecting birds as yet. I imagine it will. Poor anchovy this year resulted in fewer numbers of birds breeding, most notable being swift terns. Very little rain in SW Cape this winter may be ENSO related. Are you aware of the shift in pelagic fish distribution in Namibia. Seems that they shifted northward and into southern Angola. Seals were first to respond and relocated and formed new colonies near Cunene. Some Crocodiles in rivers in southern Angola don't quite know how to deal with seals invading their habitat. Gannetries in Namibia crashed with numbers esp. at Ichaboe now occurring at very low Dyer <


In the North Atlantic breeding Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) gave up breeding in the Faroe Islands around the 25 th of July this year. Almost no young were produced. About 500.000 breeding birds moved away from the islands. An extensive survey taking place in August documented that these birds did no go to the sea around the Faroe Islands but disappeared altogether from the sea between 60N-5E and 63N-10W. Observations from bird observatories in Denmark indicate that Kittiwakes have been very few this year in the eastern North Sea.--Bergur Olsen Satellite imagery suggest that the North Atlantic surface water is 2 to 3 degrees Celsius warmer than in normal years. This could well influence seabird food distribution, perhaps causing our observed Kittiwake breeding failure.--Jan Durinck <,


This is a status report from some friends that live in PAPUA New Guinea, Iwill try to have them send me more information directly from the Newspapers. "...this El Niño we are having is really doing a number on this country (PNG). There is really bad drought and frost in the highlands, and they are actually running short on food and water. It has been a very long time since it has been this bad I guess. This country is a very abundant country with food. They rarely have problems with hunger like some of the other third world countries. They have really been hit hard. Where we are at (Madang) we have been one of the more fortunate places in that we got 2 inches of rain a few weeks ago which topped off all the water tanks, so we will make it through the course without having to cart water up from the river. Many other places around us though are much much drier."-- Pat Earley <


Three tornadoes occurred in the past few days. Although not unusual, veryuncommon, especially three in less than a week. In my 20+ yrs living in Oregon, very few tornadoes have beenobserved. And especially unique in the valley. The location of the tornadoes was in/near Salem Oregon, about 50 miles south of Portland.--Tom Repasky <


Coastal central AK rarely has thunderstorms. It is usually too cool. This year Anchorage has had five, including a major one today, with waterspouts reported off Kodiak.--David Duffy <


I am a biologist doing long term monitoring of coastal waterbirds in southwest Florida. I have access to water level and rainfall data for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (interior fresh water wetlands) for 35 years. In comparing 1997 water levels (these levels parallel rainfall) to 1982 I get the best match of graph curves of any of the 35 years. Early (Feb.) and strong dry-down, then levels going up strongly (June) and peaking 5 months early. This is a very unusual pattern. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the year brings. I haven't looked at the bird data to see if there is any kind of correlation yet.--Ted Below <


I recently heard a rumor that a Marlin was caught off of Vancouver Island and a shark was caught off of Lummi Island (out of Bellingham, WA).--Eric Turner <


Austin. For the entire month of August we failed to reach the 100 degree air temperature mark. I cannot remember this ever happening.-- John Williams <


Average annual rainfall for Albuquerque is 8.88 inches, which has now been exceeded by 2.17 inches - not a lot by some standards but it's one-fourth of the yearly average in our arid high desert country. In a discussion last week with the NWS people here, I was told that this is within the normal variability for this area.However.....that was before Hurricane Linda - an El Niño event,according to the news. In tracking outflow from Linda on the GOES EastPac satellite (infrared, water vapor) this past week, the additional 0.63 inches between 09/10/97 and 09/19/97 is directly attributable to the hurricane. More rain is forecast this weekend (9/20/97) as the midwestern remnants of Linda are pushed down with the Canadian cold front. This may dislodge the stationary high over us which has kept Nora from moving much.I am watching Nora for more of this same activity as the moisturecontinues to flow up from Mexico in this prolonged monsoon season.Oh, yeah, we're a lot cooler, too, and degree days are way down (data available from NWS and NCDC).--Alice Gomez <


Received a report through Bob Johnson, ADF&G Sport Fish Biologist inYakutat that last week (September 15 - 18) a charter operator spotted an Ocean Sunfish one mile offshore of Ocean Cape near Yakutat, Alaska (59N/140W). Perhaps the furthest sighting of this species both to the both N and W?--Sue Walker <


Aquaculture businesses worldwide are waiting to see how El Niño will affect supplies and prices of fish meal, with an especially wary eye on the situation for anchoveta fish meal which originate principally from Peru and Chile. According to the FAO, in 1995, poultry farms accounted for 50% of global consumption of fish meal followed by swine (25%) and aquaculture (15%).Water temperatures in Peruvian anchovy fishing areas are running1.7-5.3 degrees above normal. Reports from fisheries indicate anchovies are migrating south to escape the warm waters, and Peru's loss may be Chile's gain. However, anchovy fishing in Chile has been hampered by very bad weather. Alternative sources of fish meal such as capelin meal from Iceland and Denmark are much higher priced.In the July 1997 issue of Fish Farming International, decreasedanchoveta catches were tabulated with previous El Niño events as follows:


Intensity of El Niño 


% Change in Catch








































It is forecast that fishing companies will hold onto their stocks of fish meals and speculate on obtaining higher prices in the coming months, which could mean sharply increased costs of fish and shrimp feeds for aquaculture farmers in 1998.--Barry A. Costa-Pierce <


The past week Puno had temperatures of 20 C (high for area) and no rain. Arequipa had moderate to heavy rains with thunderstorms. Moderate rains on the coast between Atico and Camaná (Dept. Arequipa) with some landslides. Amazonia, normally hot had above normal temperatures. Light rains in Piura, but heavy rains in Machala, Ecuador. In Lima, August was a warm month. September has turned out to be cool (not cold) month with the typical "garúa" or light drizzle. However, we are having frequent constant light rain all night and part of the day. The fishermen at Chorillos (just south of downtown Lima) are practically out of work due to lack of cold water fish. The same is true along most of the Peruvian coast. Yesterday, Marcona (near Nazca) had more than 40 hours of drizzle rain and has affected dirt roads and local houses not built for rain in a desert coast where supposedly it never rains.The Servicio Nacional de Meterologia e Hidrologia (SENAMHI) statesthat sea temperature is 3 to 4 degrees above normal. It is being predicted that heavy rains may start occurring as early as October/November and that El Niño may last until next March. Also devastating drught and below zero temperatures in the high parts of Puno, Cuzco, Huancavelica, Ayacucho. Twenty additional weather stations have been installed in Cuzco, Abancay (Huancavelica) and Madre de Dios.--Manuel Plenge <


Official report from Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife dive team: "Divers encountered uncommonly warm water near Sekiu, with temperatures as high as 61 degrees at a depth of 40 feet." Sekiu is on the Washington coast at the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Normal temperature is 46 to 48 for this time--Hal Beattie <


I was on a halibut charter out of Homer a couple of weeks ago with my brother and brother-in-law when we came across an Ocean Sunfish. We were in the central part of Cook Inlet due west of Kachemak Bay. Unfortunately, it didn't stay at the surface long enough for a photo. We sighted the characteristic bullet-shaped blob with the dorsal fin flopping at the surface. When we got to within 60 ft, it dove and swam away using both dorsal and ventral fins. Here are the specifics: 59 27.60 N, 152 38.14 W, Temp. = 57.2 F (from a Furuno fathometer, no estimate on accuracy), Depth = 205 ft.--Robert Suryan <


Monterey Bay Area Pelagic Trips reported Manx and Flesh-footed , Black-vented shearwaters, Black-footed Albatross, and Craveris' Murrelet. The water temps in Monterey Bay have been averaging 10 degrees F higher than normal. This is causing the colder water in the bay's deep trench to cease its normal upwelling. As a result, there is some concern that the birds will suffer due to lack of food. This is because the fish are diving deeper to obtain their own sustenance.--Peggi Rodgers <


ENSO is given as the cause of warming temperatures and a malaria outbreak in El Valle de la Convencion, north of Cuzco ( I believe this is in the area between Macchu Pichu and Cuzco.--ed). Higher temperatures have allowed increased populations of Anopheles and other mosquitoes. Numbers of malaria cases range from 4,000 to 10,000--from Dave Coder < on ProMED <


Chile reports 23 cases (14 fatal) of hanta virus in both the northern and southern ends of the country, with a possible (but unverified) case in Vina del Mar in the center. Peru reports a possible case, in Mollendo, southern Peru, a Chilean. (Unfortunately Peruvian, Ecuadorian and Chilean authorities are treating the disease as one that can spread from region to region. In reality it is instead a disease likely to 'lurk' in rodent populations, emerging only sporadically, such as when rodent populations balloon during rainfalls associated with ENSO events. It is not clear that this has happened. Reports on rodent populations from western South America would be very useful--ed) --from Dave Coder < and Mario Cornejo < on ProMED <


At least 154 people have died in Irian Jaya, eastern Indonesia, because of "drinking unsanitary water after rivers in the area ran dry."-- Robert A. LaBudde <, excerpted from FSNET (D. Powell,Univ. Guelph) on ProMED <


Since August, western Costa Rica has had five confirmed and 12 suspected cases of hemorrhagic dengue fever, the worst outbreak since 1993. Hemorrhagic dengue fever occurs in those who have had dengue in the past, potentially 30,000 Costa Ricans. --from Dave Coder < on ProMED <


An extension of the rainy season is being blamed for a 40% increase in dengue fever compared to last year in the Federal District and Miranda State. --from Dave Coder < on ProMED <


Christmas Island, Pacific Ocean. Unusual heavy rains began in May 1997 and continue through September, an estimated 1 3/4 meters so far.--B.A. Schreiber <


I am very interested in the 1997 ENSO, especially as insofar as it has any implications for Maldives where I reside and study the reefs. The water has been unseasonably warm here since April although coral bleaching has become less frequent since June.--William Allison <


I do not know if this is El Niño related but there have been an increase in bees this year. Yellow jackets have been eating fruit while on the bushes. Garden Valley and even Boise, Idaho had an increase in bees. In Boise, there has been an increase in calls to exterminators and some people have been hauled out in the ambulance. The bees, mainly Yellow jackets, have been mean, they sting people even when they are not being bothered.-- Pepe Barton (email address was lost).


The purpose of this report results from reading the information in the web site and beginning to try to think of reasons for a shift in sea turtle (Chelonia, Lepidochelys, Carretta, Dermochely) movements and occurrence in the New York Bight. The numbers of turtles captured is significantly reduced (by at least 1 order of magnitude) and leatherback sea turtles completely bypassed the region on the move north. These are events that I have not observed in over 20 years of field work. It may have nothing to do with the El Niño event but it may be an interesting coincidence. What do people think?--Samuel S. Sadove <


I visited Corpus Christi Wed. Sept. 18, 1997, and was told that this Sept. was the second hottest, driest Sept. on record.--Lynton S. Land <


Palos Verdes: Dorado, Mahi-Mahi, at N34, W118, water temperature: 74F, sighted within 3 miles of shore. Bill Andrus <


The fishmeal industries of Chile and Peru have been hard hit by a sharp fall in fish stocks as a result of El Nino's warming effect on seawater. Analysts predict that this season's output from both country will decline by about 20% or more. Mainland China has increased purchases of fishmeal from both countries to a record 300,000 mt during April through June, up 50% from the same period last year. The mixed feed industries in Europe and North America are using a greater proportion of soy meal in place of fish meal in their products.-- (INFOFISH No. 17/97).


The weather in Tennessee this year and all across the southeast United States, for the most part has been cooler than normal. Tennessee has also received more rain than average this year and with the remaining time left in the year will have a significant difference if the pattern continues--Bill Larson


Some observations from some recent cruises off central California, but first, be aware that SSTs off California have been gradually climbing during the past decades, so that even w/o ENSO, often they are warmer than they were during the GREAT ENSO of 1982/83. Truly SSTs off here are warm now, reaching 19 C inshore, 17-18 C off the shelf.

We have a paper about to be published (Schwing et al. 1997, in Calif Coop Ocean Fish Investig Reports) that reviews the physical and biological oceanography off central and southern Calif during the past few years. Included are "invasions" of several seabird species usually around off Mexico and central America: Parkinson's Petrel, Dark-rumped Petrel (several) and Swallow-tailed Gull, etc.

Most recently, on cruises, we have detected three patterns: 1) continued invasion of warm-water birds to waters off San Francisco (fish, too, but other folks have been reporting those): RB tropicbird, Least Storm-petrel and more Black Storm-petrels than usual; 2) an almost complete absence of birds in waters deeper than 2000 m (i.e., life has moved to the shelf break and nearer to shore); and 3) evidence of increased mortality (i.e. floating dead bodies) of alcids (murres and auklets) but not other species present (gulls, shearwaters).-- David Ainley <harveyecology


RACINE COUNTY: Only on 3 days all summer did the temperature reach 95F. Lilacs that normally are in full bloom by May 15 did not bloom until late June. Some lilac blooms still visible in July.-- Craig Murdoch <


I am a recreational fisherman in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Town in South Africa.We have started catching large amounts of Long-fin tuna and Yellow-fin tuna.This is normally the case off this coast, only it has come very early in the year.--Greg Ollerhead <


WWF reports that up to 600,000 hectares of Indonesia have burned during the current drought, causing air pollution and health problems in neighboring countries. The fire is affecting forest that is usually too dry to burn. ENSO is believed to have delayed the onset of the monsoons that would stop the fires--after World Wildlife Fund <


Our crew has been conducting seabird surveys in the nearshore waters off Eureka, CA. I've been collecting seabird species/numbers, SST's and other climatological data since May of this year. My files contain almost daily nearshore SST's, winds and sea states. We did get some interesting species this year. The really neat critter was two black-footed albatross.--Dennis Therry <


On Thu, 25 Sep 1997, Tracee Geernaert wrote: ...He was birding in Jervis Inlet (mainland side across from Comox,B.C.) in August I think and saw a Brown Pelican from the vessel. I can't beat Jervis Inlet but Brown Pelicans are sure covering a lot more ground than usual. I got a call from a John Rawls who saw three at the south end of Whidbey Island (off Skatchet Head) on Sunday, September 21.--Kelly Mcallister < in < via Peggi Rodgers <


I thought you might be interested in observations I have made during a recent diving cruise I made this month in the Fiji-Tonga region of the western Pacific. I am a physicist at Brookhaven National Lab, so I am not an expert in oceanography, meteorology, or biology, but I can tell you what I observed, for what it's worth. I just returned from a diving trip on a live-aboard dive boat (the Matagi Princess II). We departed Savusavu, Fiji 9-Sept-97 and arrived in Nufu'alofa, Tonga on 12-Sept. We cruised around the Tongatapu and Ha'apai Island Groups until 19-Sept. The purpose of the cruise was to sight, photograph, and dive with humpback whales during their stay in Tonga for mating and calving.We encountered about 80 whales during that cruise over the region cited. Estimated whale population before the trip was about 300, but probably the real number was greater than that due to our frequency of sightings over such a large area of ocean. The weather conditions for that time period (9-Sept to 19-Sept) were apparently unusual for that time of year. It was supposed to be the relatively dry, sunny season. But it was overcast the whole time (except for a few brief hours of hazy sun) and there were frequent rain squalls and lots of rain. Winds were generally south to southeast and strong (15-35 knots) and seas were rough much of the time, with 1 meter - 1.5 meter swells and frequent chop on top of that. Air temperature was about 69-70F during the day. Water temperature in the Tonga area was about 73F, which I think is cold for that time of year. Water temperature around Taveuni Island, Fiji was 77F during the same time. Also while we were in Tonga, we heard reports that Fiji was getting similar rainy and cloudy weather.

Fish life on the Tongan coral reefs seemed fairly sparse, but I never dove there before so I don't know what the norm is. Fijian reefs seemed reasonably lively to me, but much coral damage, probably due to previous cyclones. I heard that there had been a cyclone there recently.--Joseph F. Muratore <MURATORE@BNLAD0.RHIC.BNL.GOV

Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama, 7o49'N, 81o46"W. Significant coral bleaching was observed on 17 September 1997 at Uva Island in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Pacific Panama. All zooxanthellate scleractinian coral species were affected, at all depths (no corals present 20 m). The most severely bleached (completely white) colonies still had extended polyps and no signs of algal overgrowth, suggesting the event occurred relatively recently. Most colonies of the hydrocoral Millepora intricata (the only common species of the genus remaining after the 1982-83 ENSO) were already dead and covered with a thin algal film, suggesting they may have bleached earlier than the scleractinians.--Andrew Baker <, Juan MatE, Peter Glynn


TASS reports a hanta virus, causing hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, has killed one person and infected more than 160 people in the Orenburg area north of Volgograd. Climatic conditions have produced an "unprecedented" and "massive' spread of mice, probably the reservoir of the


Depoe Bay, Oregon, 44.85 n, 124.03 w: Six yellow fin tuna caught by fishermen. Water temperature: 62 deg.We usually only catch Albacore tuna. Also we have not seen any Gray whales along the coast for two weeks. This is the last month or so of the summer feeding season.--Al Vanderford <


I am a fisheries biologist in Humboldt County, California. During an adult salmonid migration survey on Sept. 3, I observed a male sockeye salmon in the lower Mad River near the city of Arcata. Adult sockeye were also observed in the Klamath, Smith, and Rogue Rivers by other biologists. As you are aware, these observations were well south of the species' range. I heard that tissue samples were taken from the Rogue River fish for genetic analysis.--Dennis Halligan <


Concerning the elevated sst's and bleaching in Maldives, posted in the last report, I should explain that bleaching although widespread among sensitive species, was not severe and mortality appears to have been low. When the temperature dropped by a degree, from 30 to 29 C, most of the bleaching disappeared, without signs of much mortality. I see the occasional pallid colony with some partial mortality but this could be caused by any number of things. My observations are based on many sorties inspecting corals and are not quantitative. I conclude that mortality was low because I saw few signs of partial mortality in bleaching corals and the same coral types that were bleaching everywhere I looked (i.e. nearly 100% were affected), are alive and apparently well now.--William Allison <


Our associate, who works for F&W, called to report 23 Brown Pelicans on Violet Point, the eastern spit of Protection Island, on Sunday (9/28) morning @ 1 pm. He also reported 13 brown pelicans at approx 10:30 am in the Point Wilson vicinity of Fort Worden on the same date. We anticipate further sightings on our Saturday, 10/4 trip to Protection Island.--P. Badame, Port Townsend Marine Science Center, reported by Peggi Rodgers <

From Diann MacRae at Salt Creek on the N Olympic

Peninsula : After 13:00, found a flock of Brown Pelicans, 29 at first count, ultimately 54, resting on the rocks of Tongue Point. By 1630 the group was moving out.--the Clarks < reported by reported by Peggi Rodgers <


Wichita, Sedgewick County: This past summer here has been a very wet one. I have heard a lot of people around here talk about how they haven't had water there lawns much because of the consistent rainfall. The thunderstorms don't seem quite as severe as past summers. However, temperatures seemed to have been in the 90's with only a few days that seemed to break the century mark.--David Urmnski <davidm1


Girabaldi, Tillamook County, Oregon: While fishing Tillamook Bay I observed other fishermen cleaning tuna they had caught only 2 miles offshore. They also reported "Sea Snakes" being caught by the charters.(presumably these are sauries or something eel-like rather than Pelamis sea-snakes.--ed.)--Rick Van Moorleghem <


There have been at least 2 reports of Brown Pelican off the west coast of Vancouver Island in the past two weeks. One adult bird and one young bird were seen close to shore of the small town of Tofino. Unfortunately, I do not have dates available at this time.--Don Cecile <, reported by Peggi Rodgers <


A large and extensive seabird die-off occurred in Alaska in summer 1997.

Short-tailed Shearwaters died from the western Gulf of Alaska to the Chukchi Sea. Other species also died in parts of this area: Black-legged Kittiwakes on the Alaska Peninsula, and murres and some other species in small parts of the west and north. Mortality lasted from mid-May to early September and spanned about a week in each area.

This die-off was very widely reported, considering that the entire area has no roads and few human residents. Calls came from villagers, fishermen, and diverse biologists. Ground surveys were conducted on 21 beaches and aerial surveys on four. (Numbers of birds on beaches suggest relative mortality but are not precise indices.) Cooperators sent specimens from 20 locations.

The first phase of the die-off involved Common Murres in western Alaska in the last week of May. Dead birds were reported in waters between Nunivak Island and the mainland, and 1-2/km were counted on beaches.

The next reported mortality was in waters of northern St. Lawrence Island at the end of July. Several hundred carcasses included murres, Horned Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and small numbers of other species.

During the first week of August, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Black-legged Kittiwakes died on both sides of the Alaska Peninsula (the "tail" of Alaska that extends southwest towards the Aleutians). "Thousands" of dead birds were reported in tide rips near shore. The die-off covered the entire lower half of the peninsula, as confirmed by a 2-day aerial survey. Beaches surveyed by foot had 5-50 dead Short-tailed Shearwaters and 1-20 Black-legged Kittiwakes/km. Dead storm-petrels also were reported on one beach.

Short-tailed Shearwaters began dying over a huge area of the Bering Sea at about the same time. Freshly dead birds (as well as flocks of live ones) were seen on both sides of the Aleutian Islands as far west as Adak in the first week of August, on the Pribilofs and near Anadyr (Russia) a week later, and on the north shore of Bristol bay in the third week of August. Densities on beaches ranged from 50/km on Adak to 350/km on Nunivak Island.

Mortality of Thick-billed and Common Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and Short-tailed Shearwaters was reported in the Chukchi Sea between Kotzebue and Point Hope in the last week of August. A few shearwaters were found at Cape Lisburne, on Alaska's northwest corner.

Numerous reports were received of birds behaving unusually. Flocks of shearwaters were seen feeding within 100m of shore. Shearwaters and kittiwakes in the Gulf of Alaska were attempting to grab food out of fishing gear and sometimes perching on vessels. Flocks of shearwaters commonly included moribund birds that did not fly at the approach of a vessel. Several shearwaters were seen up to 30 km inland on rivers and freshwater lakes. Murres had lower than normal breeding success in the Pribilofs (G.V. Byrd and A.L. Sowls, unpubl. data). Dead birds were thin and light in weight.

Most Alaskan seabirds appear not to have been affected. There was no mortality in the northern and eastern Gulf of Alaska. No species died off other than those listed above, although 38 species breed in Alaska and 2 shearwaters visit during the summer. Breeding success of kittiwakes, which is highly sensitive to availability of suitable prey at the surface, was normal in most areas studied, including the Pribilof Islands (G.V. Byrd and A.L. Sowls, unpubl. data). (Data on kittiwake productivity are still being analyzed for some breeding colonies.We have none for 1997 on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, unfortunately.)

Unusual conditions prevailed at sea in the Gulf of Alaska and southern Bering Sea in summer 1997. Surface waters were very warm, and waters in eastern Bristol Bay were highly stratified (G.L. Hunt, unpubl. data). Several researchers and fishermen reported extensive areas of weirdly beautiful pale-aqua water in the Bering Sea. Hunt has identified this phenomenon as a bloom of Coccolithophorid phytoplankton.

The condition and behavior of the birds, and what is known so far about water conditions, suggest that starvation was an important factor in the 1997. However, necropsy of specimens from various locations will help indicate whether disease or parasites may have contributed significantly. Further information about oceanographic conditions also will help.--Vivian M. Mendenhall, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <


A dengue-like disease has been reported in both Fiji and Samoa "perhaps tied to atmospheric conditions in the region". ProMED <


Kirkland, King County: I've noticed an abnormal raise in temperature this past month. A lack of rain has also been noticeable in this region. Rise is has been approximately three to four from normal September expectations. It's actually a pleasurable change from dreary fall/winters from the past.--Kevin Dowdell (no email retained)


Total rainfall for September 2.43

Departure from normal precipitation for month +1.43 Departure from normal precipitation for year +3.25

It should be remembered that this unusual increase in rainfall is not in itself an ENSO event: the monsoonal airflow from the SW/WSW (SoCal, Gulf of CA, EastPac) is usual for this time of year in NM and AZ, and will continue until cold fronts from the PacNW and central plains displace it.

What *IS* noteworthy is the increase in the amount of water vapor in the flow provided not only by the ENSO-generated hurricanes Linda and Nora, but also generally throughout this past summer. As a result of this water vapor running smack into the central mountain chain, there was a concomitant increase in rain or, at least, in cumulus build-up/verga (and cooling!)

nearly every afternoon during the summer months.

We must await winter storm tracks and jet stream data for actual ENSO effects in the southwest. For more information about ENSO-linked storm tracks, see The North American Climate Patterns at

Notable Nora-driven birds for Arizona (in greater numbers only except where noted):

Vaux's Swift
Sabine's Gull
California Gull
Franklin's Gull
Common Tern
Least Tern
Caspian Tern
Roseate Spoonbill
Leach's Storm-Petrel
Least Storm-Petrel (second state record)
Black Storm-Petrel (first state record)
Adult Parasitic Jaeger
Black-vented Shearwater (first state record)
Red Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope

And in New Mexico (4-Corners area):

Wandering Tattler (first state record)

For individual contributors, specific dates and locations, please refer to Chuck Williamson's BirdServ Zingy Weekly AZ/NM Listserv at for the last week of September.--Alice Gomez <

2 OCTOBER. CALIFORNIA: SEABIRDS AND HURRICANES The Los Angeles Audubon Society's weekly report of bird sightings in southern California for Thursday, October 2nd reports a Red-billed Tropicbird was found in northwestern Imperial County on Saturday. The bird was captured and later died. Other effects of the recent storm (Nora) have included Black-vented Shearwaters, Black and Least Storm-petrels and a Parasitic Jaeger at Lake Havasu between the 26th and 29th of September.--Peggi & Ben Rodgers

3 OCTOBER 1997. PANAMA: CLIMATE t has been raining heavily in Panama City (Howard Airbase (PACIFIC SIDE) set a new record to maximum rainfall). It has also been raining heavily at Fort Sherman (800 mm)(ATLANTIC SIDE). However, it has not been raining very much in the greater part of the Panama Canal watershed.

The Meteorology and Hydrology branch of the Panama Canal Commission reports a new (by a considerable margin) record for low rainfall and runoff for the month of Sept. This is the second record setting month in a row. Barro Colorado Island received only 162.3 mm of rain (vs an average of 274.1 mm) during Sept. For the year, Barro Colorado Island in the Canal has received 1228.2 mm (vs 1626.9 mm average).

The following are the 5 driest years recorded for Barro Colorado Island:









El Niño year#1 We lost the the last rainy season,







--Neal Smith


PROMED reports a message from T. Yates that a former student, Eduardo Palma, a mammalogist in Chile, identifies an increase in Oligoryzomys sp. rats has followed flowering and growth of bamboo and perhaps other plants in the area. The ProMed editor suggested this might be ENSO-related.--Terry Yates


The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has an "El Niño Watch" program that encourages fishers and citizens to report their sighting of unusual fishes. If rare, people can donate their frozen specimen to the University of Washington's Fish Collection. A good photograph along with pertinent collection information would also be of use. Contact Wayne Palsson, WDFW at (425) 379-2313 or e-mail at "" Besides of species already reported to this forum, an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) has been reported off Vashon Island, south of Seattle on 24 September 1997. This record is as far south as any have been reported in Puget Sound. A likely basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) was reported in Pickering Passage in southern Puget Sound, but several have been reported in this region in previous years. Numerous reports of Brown Pelicans have also been received from many places in Puget Sound, the San Juan Archipelago, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.--Wayne Palsson


The east coast has not experienced a tropical storm or hurricane this summer, the first I can remember, and I believe hurricane ERIKA, which passed well to the east, far at sea, is the only one. Media coverage of the ENSO reported, citing a NOAA source, that there have only been three years in recorded meteorological history (period of record keeping), without summer hurricanes. William Gray's tropical meteorological page on the Colorado State University Home Page carries a report.--Herb Austin <


Just finished a six-week research cruise onboard the NOAA R/V "David Starr Jordan" operating in the very shallow waters (mostly less than 100 meters) of the upper Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) and Colorado River delta and mouth (mid-Aug to late-Sep). Having never worked in this part of the Gulf before, I have no comparative experience as to how the region may have been influenced by the current ENSO event and analyses of oceanographic data are incomplete. I suspect nothing much really. If anything, it was much more windy than was expected and as suggested by the local fishermen. We were expecting mostly calm Beaufort 0-2 sea states. Up until about mid-September, the almost relentless winds were humid tropical southeasterlies, 15-25knots, with resulting sea states at B-4 to B-6. This hampered study efforts but had a cooling effect on the air temperature keeping it down to a relatively tolerable low-mid 90's F (31 - 33C) while sea surface temperatures hovered around 90 F (31 C). On land (adjacent desert areas, NE Baja & NW Sonora, Mexico) daily daytime temperatures maintained reasonably normal desert levels 105 - 115F (40 - 46C) but with heat "comfort" indices reaching extremes as high as a blood boiling 160 F (71 C) -- this figure via local TV received aboard ship from Yuma, Arizona. Typical overnight low temperatures were often in the humid low to mid-80's (26 - 30C) which were warmer than normal. Our cumulative incidental seabird sightings seemed to indicate nothing really out of the ordinary relative to El Niño. The upper Gulf of California seems like an odd place to find the SOUTH POLAR SKUA (typically 3-8 per day -- possibly same birds I suppose), but this species is apparently a regular part of the summer avifauna here with concentrations as high as 35 birds counted in a single sweep during a 1993 visit to this area, then associated with fishing activity ( Bob Pitman & Mike Force). [WHY has this species not yet turned up at California's Salton Sea??? ...or has it? "Nora"?? If the South Polar Skua can cross the vast icy desert of Antarctica to reach the South Pole at Admundson-Scott Base (the only species of bird ever recorded there), then a little bit of scalding hot sandy desert shouldn't be such an impossible barrier].

A few to several dozen Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters were present daily throughout the period with Sooties all the way up into the delta and along Sonoran desert beaches. The Sooty Shearwaters certainly appeared to be way out of their element in these "hot" waters, appearing severely bedraggled in ragged states of molt, sickly, and oily "slick" as the plumage appeared wet and soaked and not shedding sea water properly. The Pink-footed's appeared to be in much better shape than the Sooties and seemed much more at home in somewhat deeper offshore waters (40 m) as were the majority of Black-vented Shearwaters.

Otherwise, the characteristic residents of the region [Black-vented Shearwater, Black and Least Storm Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown and Blue-footed Booby, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Heermann's and Yellow-footed Gull, and Elegant, and Common Terns] were plentiful, seen daily, and appeared to be doing well. There were no Craveri's Murrelet sightings and none were expected. The only Laughing Gull was an immature on 9/23. A panga trip in the channels around Pelican and Montague Islands inside the mouth of the Rio Colorado on 9/21 noted 200-300 Black Skimmers, a few Gull-billed Terns, American Oystercatcher, Wilson's Plovers, and numerous large waders, especially Long-billed Curlews and Marbled Godwits,, and sneaky "small-sized" Bottle-nosed Dolphins (_Tursiops sp._) that could easily be mistaken for Vaquita (a very rare and endangered porpoise Phocoena sinus) by their slow snap rolling "porpoise-like" behavior in those incredibly turbid waters, but definitely no Vaquita there.

Rarities to the upper Gulf, though probably not to be unexpected included Buller's Shearwater (1), Masked Booby (3) [both yellow and orange-billed forms], Red-footed Booby (1), dark-rumped Leach's (2-3), and Galapagos Storm Petrel (1). A single Wilson's Storm Petrel pattering, planing, and skipping along the surface amongst several thousand Black and Least Storm Petrels in the wake of a fishing boat north of the Midriff Islands, and Audubon's Shearwater off Guaymas were most notable, and both seen during a refueling transit run on 9/01.

Numerous and immense spectacular flocks of migrating Black Terns (tens of thousands!!) and Least Terns (many hundreds to low thousands) were present in waters off Guaymas on 9/01. During the return transit from Guaymas to San Felipe, the "Mother of tern flocks" a massive dense feeding frenzy of 25-50,000 Black Terns were seen off Isla San Sebastian at sunset on 9/04 stretching for more than a mile and looked like a black cloud of insects in the distance!! Sabine's Gull, and all three jaeger species [Parasitic, Pomarine, and Long-tailed (rare)] were regular in small numbers in the upper Gulf through the period. Most of these birds were immature and may have arrived from overland.

There were three Pacific Hurricanes affecting Baja during the study. 40-50 knot pressure gradient SSE winds between "Ignacio" off western Baja and High Pressure over Texas pushed several hundred Sooty Shearwaters and 2-3 dark-rumped Leach's Storm Petrels into Colorado River delta area on 8/16. Superstorm (Category 5) "Linda" turned west off Cabo San Lucas, a relief to everyone and had no effect on the upper Gulf.

"Nora" (Category 1) cut across central Baja from the Pacific side and scored a direct hit on San Felipe and delta area on 9/24-25 (2300 - 0800hrs). At the storms height, driving east winds were sustained at 60-80 knots for about three hours (0500 - 0800hrs) and 13.2 inches (~335 mm) of rain fell. At 0800 hrs, the whole thing abruptly stopped dead, the sun came out and the storm was over. We thought it was the eye, but in fact the storm was indeed over not realizing that this storm had a clockwise rotation. Substantial damage was done to the boat harbor and protective breakwater with about 30 pangas busted up and sunk (including our's), some structural damage and flooding in town, and wide-spread desert flash flooding caused extensive road damage. Mike Force and I had just disembarked in San Felipe as "Nora" approached and we ended up stranded there for four days until rescue arrived to take us and scientific gear to San Diego.None-the-less, it was an "interesting" adventure watching the ongoing fury at beach-side from the Las Misiones Resort Hotel where we had a commanding view of the whole show while hoping that it wouldn't get worse and trying to stay out of the line of fire from flying debris, glass, and breaking windows.

There were no seabirds of note in the immediate wake of the storm at San Felipe other than the offshore regulars having been blown near shore. However, storm fallout reported by birders in desert birding locales of SE California and Arizona included a scattering of many of the characteristic species of the upper Gulf. At least some of these included, Black and Least Storm Petrels, Black-vented Shearwater, Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown and Blue-footed Boobies, and Magnificent Frigatebird.

A sub-adult "yellow-billed" Masked Booby observed on 9/23, just ahead of "Nora" by Mike Force and me in the Upper Gulf east of "Rocas Consag" may be particularly notable and may have either been a belated lost gift of "Linda", or was pushed well ahead of "Nora" which had stalled south of Cabo for a few days, or perhaps was assisted by both.--Richard Rowlett


A brief note from Alejandro Simeone < regarding early breeding attempts at the Humboldt Penguin colony at Algarrobo, Chile. As with last winter, rains have been very intensive, especially during early-mid September and early October. Consequence: the breeding for this season is severely delayed. Last Saturday 27th there were about 10 active nests, what we consider with Mariano to be very poor in relation to same date last year.-- Ed Diebold


Reported by the crustacean unit of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: 73 brown pelicans on Protection Island, which is just north of Discovery Bay, and Dungeness spit. ... reported that there have been some pelican sightings from there before, but never of such magnitude.--Hal Beattie


I thought you might be interested in the Red tide event at South Padre Island in Texas. I drove 27 miles of beach and in the tidal area the density of dead fish varied from zero/ meter squared to over 200. I'd guess in most places in the intertidal there were about 10 fish/meter. About a 1/3 of the dead things were eels. The most common dead things were fish that fed on plankton. As of Oct. 3 it looked like the event that been going for several days as evidenced by the condition of the fish. Some red drum were dead that were nearly a meter long. I found some needle fish and flounder as well. Apparently Oct 2 was much worse and the toxin was so bad on that day that people had burning eyes as well as a cough. On the 3rd it was still bad and made you cough but it was better than the 2nd. It stayed about the same level through the 5 when I left. I still saw recently dead fish floating in the surface on Oct 3,and 4th suggesting things were still dying. We found one dead coyote that was just above the high tide line that probably died from eating fish. I found one dead grebe but no other seabirds. I did see terns and some gulls scavenging. Apparently there was a red-tide event last year but not as bad as this year. Peter Jenny said that there were no red-tides in the six years or so he has been to South Padre in October until last year.--Dee Boersma


In the news over the weekend: our normal rainy season has ended two weeks early, the earliest ever recorded. El Niño is blamed.--Robert A. Bergen


Lehigh County: I believe the El Niño will have a dramatic effect on the Northeast including PA. In 1982, eastern PA had record snow amounts when the last El Niño occurred. Also, Look at the Southeast for the jet stream to force the moisture into the lower jetstream and force cutoff lows or Noreasters to form along the mid Atlantic region. Mark my word, more snow south of the Mason Dixon line. The El Niño has already raised temps above normal in PA. The 80's in October is rare. If the moisture follows later this fall with a couple of Alberta Clippers we will have a real mess. In other words, the El Niño will feed the moisture starved Alberta clippers, thus more snow along the coasts.-- Michael Siegel


Associated Press reports that several species of wildlife are being affected by the Indonesian drought. Orangutans in Borneo are being killed when they attempt to raid village gardens; Sumatran elephants are also raiding gardens and tigers, displaced from their jungle habitat, have mauled at least four people.


What is going on with all the Bulwer's Petrel sightings? Why and how could these birds reach the East coast of Australia? (They should be off the west coast). Water temperature off Sydney and Wollongong is exceptionally low at the moment could this be a factor? Is it the weather, lack of observers or just lost birds? I do hope the very serious haze problems in Indonesia is not a factor.--Tony Palliser<

Further on Tony Palliser's remarks on sea conditions.I was down on the south coast at the weekend, watching thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters moving by. Can anyone tell me if the Eastern Australian current (which is really a series of giant eddies, that move up and down the coast) is related to the El Niño phenomenon and how? The behaviour of the Eastern Australian current seems to be directly connected with the numbers of shearwater mortalities, but I am not aware if those deaths also correlate with El Niño. Does anybody know?

Also, we get the worst droughts in OZ when we get the combination OF an El Niño and also a phenomenon that affects the north-west Indian Ocean. I haven't seen anything about what's happening in the Indian Ocean. Can anyone shed any light on this?--John M. Penhallurick< --via Bevan Craddock


Associated Press reports famine and disease have killed over 400 people in western New Guinea, following loss of gardens and drinking sources during "the worst drought in half a century".


CNN reports that dry season burning in the upper Amazon has been widespread, causing respiratory problems and restricting aviation. Humidity levels "over South America" are at 43%, the lowest since 1939 and the number of fires detected by U.S. satellites in the Amazon is up almost 30% since last year.


Fulton County, Georgia: This has been the warmest October in Atlanta in ten years! In fact, the beetles are still out and the Bermuda grass isn't even close to being dormant. Although there is some foliage change, it has been far less than expected.--James C. Archer


Bodega Bay: 70 miles north of San Francisco, 38.18' N 123.03' W. We experienced a hard blow on 6 Oct.'97 that we would only associate with a spring or early summer upwelling. Our local upwelling is intense. A drop of 3-4 degrees C is expected after four to six hours when it blows continuously at thirty mph+. During the 6 Oct'97 blow it was gusting to 45mph+ and yet after 24 hours the sea surface temp never dropped more than 1.5 degrees from the steady 13.5 it has been holding at for a week now. I spoke with a biological oceanographer about this observation and he says this is good evidence of the colder water we would normally see coming up and onshore with an upwelling being displaced by a Kelvin wave that shifted the thermocline so that warmer water was feeding the upwelling.-- Paul Siri < (This appears to be a polar-moving Kelvin wave which would have originated from the original equatorial east-ward moving Kelvin wave that struck Peru. If so, then California can truly say it has ENSO conditions.--Ed.)


A second striped marlin for Washington State was caught by Canadian fisher Gary Sheppard targeting albacore on 10 September. The commercial fisher landed the marlin 25 miles west of Westport near where the first striped marlin was caught on 3 September. The 100 lb 45 (kg) fish was frozen and held on board the F.V. Sea Breeze 2 until delivered to an Astoria, Oregon processor on 5 October. Wayne Palsson, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife <


In the last two weeks heavy rain started to fall all over the state of Santa Catarina causing flooding in some areas such as Rio do Sul area drained by the River Itajai. During these two weeks big waves hit the coast (waves up to 12 ft). Magellan Penguins started to arrive in Santa Catarina shores by late August which is the time when they are leaving the area in normal years. Jorge Albuquerque <


40 miles off Florence, Oregon, 44 degrees N 125 degrees W, one mahi-mahi or dolphin fish (Coryphaena hippurus) caught by a commercial albacore jig boat, 63 degrees F water temp. Not unheard of, but certainly related to warm water events.--Neil Richmond<


Alicante 3840 N 00017 W: Over the last ten months, we have been fishing for shrimp inshore at depths 100 fathoms shallower than their usual 300 fathoms.--Vicente Soriano <


AP reports that Vice President Gore, speaking at an ENSO summit, suggested that global warming was responsible for increasing the frequency and severity of ENSO events.Ron Fournier, AP, Anchorage Daily News 15 October.


Between at least 1986 and 1996 thousands of Brown Pelicans could be expected to show up in late summer each year on the Washington coast. The mouth of the Columbia River, Willapa Bay, and Grays Harbor were the main concentration areas though flocks could easily be observed along the coast north of Grays Harbor, in places like Kalaloch Beach and at Willoughby Rock. This pattern of late summer/early fall abundance on Washington's southern coast seemed pretty consistent during this period. This year, a dramatic change is evident. . . I started asking others and heard that anchovies were apparently being found in large numbers further north than usual.--Kelly Mcallister <, via Peggi Rodgers <


I am a tuna fisherman in the Gulf of Maine, while the fishing was ok for the season our average water temp was down 10-15 degrees F for the summer, we would normally get 3-4 weeks of 70+ degree water, we were instead lucky to get 2 weeks of 65 degree water. the sea temp would backoff to 55 degrees as soon as a NW wind came into play.--Joshua T Shea <


Within the past two months the New England Aquarium in Boston has responded to stranding events on Cape Cod involving three cetacean species uncommon to Massachusetts inshore waters:

1. August 13 - an adult female false killer whale (Cedric crassidens) at Osterville, Ma

2. September 22 - a sub-adult male beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus?) at Barnstable, Ma

3. October 1 - an adult striped dolphin (Stanley coeruleoalba) in Dennis, Ma

Each of these strandings represents an anomalous occurrence of otherwise pelagic cetaceans.--Jim Rice <


"The past two decades are replete with evidence of the significant economic and social costs associated with unanticipated disruptions in weather and climate patterns. For example, estimates of global losses associated with the 1982-1983 El Nino event exceeded $8 billion. Of that figure, U.S. losses associated with storms in the Mountain and Pacific states, flooding in the Gulf States, and Hurricane Iwa in Hawaii, were estimated to have cost $2.5 billion. The 1988 U.S. drought resulted in an estimated $2-4 billion in direct losses to agricultural producers, with total losses throughout the economy estimated at greater than $22 billion. The 1993 Midwest floods were associated with about $15-20 billion in damages and costs. The 1995 floods in California and the Gulf States resulted in estimated losses of $7 billion. More recently, significant damage and losses have resulted from the heavy rains associated with tropical storms along the west coast, the Gulf of California, and parts of southern Arizona. Yet these figures alone do not adequately capture the real measure of human suffering, direct losses, and missed opportunities.

During the past decade it has become increasingly clear that the coupled ocean-atmosphere weather phenomenon known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), plays a dominant role in influencing year-to-year changes in climatic conditions around the world. Based upon enhanced understanding of ENSO, scientists have refined their ability to provide useful predictions on a scale that accommodates local and regional planning decisions. The capability to understand and predict El Nino phenomena also presents government officials, industry, and local communities with an array of opportunities, including: reducing vulnerability to climate-related natural disasters such as floods and droughts; enhancing economic competitiveness; supporting public- and private-sector decision-making for climatically-sensitive regions and sectors; providing scientific information to support U.S. international treaty negotiations; and in assessing and maintaining national and international environmental security.

The forecasts are proving to be very useful. For example, the1997-98 El Nino forecast for the United States indicates that Southern California and the Gulf States will experience wetter than normal conditions during the fall and winter of 1997-1998. Federal and local emergency preparedness officials are currently reviewing options available to reduce the human and economic costs associated with potential flooding conditions. In California, scientists, forecasters, and emergency management officials expect the increase in rainfall to be accompanied by an increase in the number and severity of coastal storms, so planners are also developing strategies to deal with threats due to coastal erosion as well as flooding. On the other hand, sports fishing for some deep water species which prefer warm-water conditions (e.g. tuna and marlin) could produce record income for this important California industry. Similarly, a shift in the movement of tuna stocks is expected to produce significant benefits to the tuna cannery industry in American Samoa.

Higher forecasted temperatures for most of the northern and central regions of the U.S. provide natural gas and electric utilities with opportunities to adapt their purchasing, shipment, and storage plans accordingly. Commodities trading in crops such as wheat, coffee, cocoa and sugar is already reflecting the predicted impacts of this year's El Niño. While this year's Atlantic hurricane season witnessed little activity, Hawaii, on the other hand, is anticipating a more active season for tropical storms and hurricanes (Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki both struck during years of warmer than normal ocean temperatures--1982 and 1992, respectively). In addition, many Pacific island countries are preparing for El Nino-related drought conditions".--Tony Socci<tsocci@USGCRP.GOV


 "Newspaper reports in recent days show that forest burnings have increased in recent months in Brazil, especially in the Amazonian region. According to the 'Folha de Sao Paulo' of October 01, 38.6 thousand such burnings were registered in all of Brazil during the months of July, August and September of this year. This compares with a total of 32.9 thousand such burnings during the same period last year - an increase of 17%.

In Mato Grosso alone during the month of September, 6 thousand burnings were registered by satellites. In the State of Para, 6600 burnings were registered between July and September of 1996 as compared to 8800 during the same period this year - an increase of 33%.

The burnings have left much smoke in the air in these regions and has been responsible for problems in many of the airports. The airport of Maraba, State of Para, needed to use instruments to help planes land during 120 hours in September - the visibility was seriously impaired. The airport in Imperatriz, State of Maranhao, experienced such difficulties during 32 hours in September while the airport in Carajas, State of Para, was forced to close on two occasions. On September 29 smoke was responsible for a 40% increase in the number of people who sought medical aid in hospitals because of problems with breathing in the city of Manaus, Amazonas. Pilots claim that visibility approaching the city is usually over 5 thousand meters; during recent days at best it has been between 2 thousand and 5 thousand meters.

During the last week we received the following study on this question prepared by the Environmental Defense Fund which we would like to share with you.


Fires in the Amazon - An Analysis of NOAA-12 satellite data 1996 - 1997

Stephan Schwartzman<

Analysis of NOAA satellite data indicates that burning in the Brazilian Amazon increased 28% between 1996 and 1997. A sample of 41 consecutive days for which data are available starting from 08/01/96 (08/01/96 - 09/16/96) and 41 consecutive days for which data are available starting 08/01/97 (08/01/97 - 09/21/97) shows the increased burning. The sample was selected taking the first 41 days starting August 1st 1997 for which NOAA 12 data could be obtained from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) ( que) and the first 41 days starting August 1st 1996, in order to create comparable data sets from the burning season in the two years. Occurrence and distribution of fires is observed from thermal anomalies in data from NOAA satellite Advanced Very-High Resolution Radiometers (AVHRR). Images are processed and fires counted by INPE from June to November.

A total of 19,115 fires are reported from the NOAA-12 satellite images in the sample in 1996, while 24,549 fires appear in the 1997 data over the period, an increase of 28%. The average number of fires per day increased from 466 to 599. The actual increase for the year may be even greater, since 1997 is drier than 1996 and burning continues. INPE has not yet released analysis of deforestation, based on Landsat Thematic Mapper images, for 1995 or 1996. Increased burning, however, strongly suggests that deforestation rates continue to rise. The most recent deforestation analysis, released last year, showed that forest clearing had risen about 34% between 1991 and 1994, reaching 14,896 square kilometers a year.1/

Burning was concentrated principally in the Amazon states of Mato Grosso, and Para, followed by Tocantins, Rondonia and Maranhao. Half of the fires registered in 1997 were in Mato Grosso alone. The state of Mato Grosso has since 1992 been the beneficiary of a $205 million World Bank loan intended to halt deforestation -- the Mato Grosso Natural Resource Management Program.

These data underestimate the actual number of fires probably by an order of magnitude, since the NOAA-12 satellite passes over the Amazon region at night, recording only the largest and longest- burning conflagrations. Fires to burn cleared forest and pasture are started in the daytime. Previous analyses of burning relied on the NOAA-14 satellite, which orbits the region during the day, and thus records much higher totals.2/ Use of the NOAA-14 satellite data to calculate the number of fires during the burning season was discontinued by the Brazilian government, under the allegation that sun glint, the reflection of the sun from bodies of water or the earth during the Amazon dry season, could erroneously register as burning on the satellite's sensors, inflating the number of fires.

While analysis of the NOAA-12 data under-counts the actual number of fires, comparison of the data from two years does yield a reliable estimate of change in burning activity.

The number of fires is not a direct measure of new deforestation, because old cattle pasture and secondary forest is typically burned every year, in addition to forest newly felled for cattle ranching. Burning in areas not previously cleared is a good indication of new deforestation, and increased burning in past years has in fact presaged increased deforestation.

Of the 12% to 13% of the forested area of the Amazon cleared and burned to date, an area about the size of California, only about 12% is farmed. The rest is cattle pasture, and most new forest clearing is for the creation of cattle pasture. New areas are typically first made accessible to ranching and agriculture by building of logging roads, particularly for mahogany extraction.

Were the 28% increase in burning to represent an equal increase in the annual deforestation rate, and were such an increase to have occurred twice in the three years since 1994, when the last deforestation data were released, the current rate would be higher than 21,130 square kilometers per year recorded by INPE between 1978 - 1988.

The variations in annual deforestation rates since the end of the 1980s are in part explained by economic cycles. As Brazil's economic stabilization plan takes hold and growth picks up, most observers expect increased deforestation.

Equally important is that since 1989, Brazil's environmental agency (IBAMA) has had no statutory authority to enforce environmental legislation. A recent Brazilian national security agency (SAE) report on forestry policy concluded that 80% of the timber produced in the Amazon is extracted illegally.3/ The environmental agency collects about 6.5% of the fines it levies. The 1965 Forestry Code specified penalties to be applied by the courts, but failed to authorize executive agencies to enforce the law. This was temporarily rectified by executive order during the military dictatorship (Decreto-Lei 289/67), but under the 1988 Constitution this order should have been made law by the Congress within 180 days, but was not. Consequently, IBAMA is powerless to levy fines, apprehend timber stolen from public lands or otherwise carry out its mandate. There is thus practically no environmental law enforcement in the Amazon. The government introduced draft legislation that would enable IBAMA to function in 1991; only in 1997 did the legislation pass the Senate and it is now blocked in the House of Representatives.

Researchers at the Institute of People and the Environment in the Amazon (IMAZON) have shown that current fire use practices act synergistically with selective logging in the region to promote fire, even in normally fire-resistant living forests.4/ Individual fires of this type may encompass hundreds or even thousands of square kilometers of forest. Amazonian forest fires (as opposed to burning of felled forest) take place under the tree canopy and may not be detected by current satellite methods. IMAZON estimates that for every hectare of forest that is cut down and burns, at least one more hectare burns beneath the canopy. Mortality of trees subjected to even light fires can be 40%-50%. Once burned, a forest is much more likely to burn again in subsequent years. These recurrent forest fires have been shown to reduce living biomass in the forest by as much as 80%. This implies carbon emissions that are not accounted for in current estimates, which are based solely on deforestation.

Increased burning may provoke unexpected larger consequences. The Woods Hole Research Institute and Institute of Environmental Research in the Amazon (IPAM) estimate that as much as half of the forest, in the eastern and southern Amazon where deforestation and burning have been heaviest, is near the limit of its capacity to remain evergreen during the Amazonian dry season. With the drier climate predicted by climate models could become flammable. Under these circumstances, much larger conflagrations consuming larger areas of the forest and increasing carbon emissions drastically become a serious risk.

End Notes:

  1. InforMMA. Ministerio de Meio Ambiente, dos Recursos Hidricos e da Amazonia Legal, 31 de julho 1996.
  2. A.W. Setzer and M.C. Pereira. Ambio 20, 19 1991; Amazon is Burning Again?, Diana Schemo New York Times, October 12, 1995.
  3. Secretaria de Assuntos Estrategicos. Grupo de Trabalho sobre Politica Florestal: A Exploracao Madeireira na Amazonia. Relatorio. Brasalia, 08 de abril de 1997.
  4. Mark Cochrane and M. Schulze, Fire as a recurrent event in tropical forests of the eastern Amazon. In press, Biotropic." --SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica e Paz <


CNN reports that although EN has been known for centuries by Peruvian fishermen, its effects elsewhere may have been unrecognized. A drought during the "long slump" in EN in the 1030's may have been the cause of the American Dust Bowl. Lewis and Clark may have been hampered in their explorations by rains in 1806. Finally, noting that EN leads to increased Mid Eastern rainfall, an Israeli scientist has suggested that the Biblical drought of Exodus 9: 33 was caused by the absence of EN. (William Vogt an early ENSO researcher suggested that Hitler's armies bogged down in Russian winters because eastern such winters are worse in EN years.--ED)


"Researchers at the University of Washington are describing in two recent research papers what they call a decades-long climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that seems to explain many of the changing environmental patterns seen across North America, and particularly in the Pacific Northwest, since the late 1970s.

The scientists are calling this climatic phenomenon the PDO, for Pacific decadal oscillation. And, they say, its current positive cycle helps to explain why U.S. West Coast ocean temperatures have been warmer than average, why winters have been wetter than usual in the South, and why Alaska salmon harvests have been at historic highs, while there have been record declines along the West Coast.

El Nino, it appears, is only one small -- albeit exaggerated -- phase of this cycle, says David Battisti, UW atmospheric sciences associate professor, who was the first to show why El Nino recurs on an average of every four years. He describes this latest discovery as an index of sea-surface temperatures in the North Pacific, "which my guess also involves the tropics." Says Battisti: "This phenomenon explains much about what is happening in regional climate change. And if we could predict the PDO, we would have much more reliable forecasts."

However, says Nate Mantua, a UW research associate, scientists probably will not have the ability to begin making accurate forecasts for at least another five years. A PDO prediction system, he says, would allow long-term planning in such areas as fisheries, water supplies, agriculture and energy production.

"The science right now is more like our understanding of El Nino 15 to 20 years ago," says Mantua. But when a PDO forecast is developed, he says, it will become an important measure of climate across North America.

The discovery of the PDO has been something of a scientific detective story. Using high-speed computers, researchers combed the past century's meteorological records to see if they could spot any recurring patterns of climate change. In more recent decades, El Nino quickly emerged as the dominant recurring pattern of year-to-year climate variability on the planet. But when records were studied back to 1900, with the focus on the region north of Hawaii in the Pacific basin, the PDO revealed itself with positive and negative phases lasting from 10 to 30 years

With a few interruptions, researchers found that since 1977 the PDO has been in a positive phase with cool air in the Southeastern U.S., and a tendency to dry weather over the Columbia Basin and the Great Lakes. In the Northwest, winters have been largely warm and dry, water levels have been down because there have been fewer storms than normal, and snow packs have been low. In the previous negative phase of the PDO, lasting from 1947 to 1976, the Northwest's water supplies were an average of 20 percent higher than between the 1920s and the 1940s, with more precipitation and higher snow packs.

Evidence also suggests that many populations of Pacific salmon are influenced by changes in marine climate. This could explain why in the last negative phase of the PDO, when coastal ocean temperatures were cooler, coho and chinook salmon were in abundance off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, but Alaska's stocks were greatly depleted. Since the 1970s, warmer coastal waters have reversed these conditions. However, the UW researchers say, the present positive phase of the PDO should be expected to reverse within a decade, at which time favorable ocean conditions should return for West Coast salmon.

Many of these climate changes are felt across North America because of wave patterns -- like ripples in a stream -- in the atmosphere, which is directly affected by changes of temperature in Pacific Ocean currents. But the phenomenon is particularly evident in the Northwest because of a feature in the wind field called the Aleutian low, which directs atmospheric patterns across the region.

One of the puzzles of the PDO, says Mantua, is whether it acts as a restraint on El Nino, or whether it is a long-term response to the phenomenon. Mantua says he prefers the argument that the PDO is a slower change in the climate system of the oceans and atmosphere over the entire Pacific basin which influences how El Nino develops.

One frustrating aspect of attempting to forecast the PDO is that it develops over such a long period that a negative or a positive phase can have passed before researchers even discover it. "We can recognize the phenomenon, but we can't say what phase we're in at the time," says Battisti. "But that's only because we don't yet fully understand it. After all, it has only been in recent years that we've recognized it even exists."

To find out what the PDO forecast could be for your region, call Battisti at (206) 543-2019, or at , or call Mantua at (206) 616-5347, or at"--David Brand <


ProMED reports that cholera has broken out in Acapulco following the hurricane. Lack of drinking water triggered the outbreak and there is additional risk of typhoid, dengue fever, and salmonella--Angie Lee (Finchley) <


Here are some Gulf of the Farallones observations from this Fall from Rich Stallcup and me:

The coastal migration of Red-necked Phalaropes takes place offshore. This fall, the were scarce on our pelagic surveys and abundant onshore at every estero, pond, and cow tank west of the coast ranges. Red Phalaropes are generally later than RNPH and the first few are turning up, also onshore.

95% of central California's nesting swallows (5 species) departed 3-5 WEEKS earlier than normal. Barns, Cliffs, and Purple Martins -- the ones with farthest to go -- bailed earliest.

Magnificent Frigatebirds were NOT an unusual presence along the California coast. Only 6-8 records, probably fewer individuals. Normal.

The NOAA Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Beach Watch volunteers did not find unusual mortality in Common murres or, as predicted (by me) Cassin's Auklets. (See Michelle Hester's report for 27 August .) Most departed the central California shelf waters.

We saw a 6-foot leatherback at Cordell Bank on 31 August. Skipper Roger Garcia told me he had seen "several" there during August but none since. -Rich Stallcup

On a Rich Stallcup pelagic trip October 4, we saw concentrations of Black-vented Shearwaters in the hundreds between Bodega Head and Cordell Bank, concentrations typical of Falls with warm water. -- Burr Heneman


We ought to know how things are going to go here in Panama between 15 and 25 November. If the trade winds start in November, the Intertropical Convergence Zone has collapsed and we are in for a long dry season.--Neal Smith


There are some interesting records from Czech republic.In the first half of July strong several-day rains occurred over Jeseniky and Beskydy Mountains resulting in catastrophic flooding such have never been recorded in Czech republic / kingdom for over 1.000 years. Wild destructing rivers just below the mountains, large amount of water in lowlands... Over 50 people died. After this many water pools / lakes appear in landscape and some of them are still surviving. These pools attracted birds, some of them in unprecedented numbers. Bevan Craddock


Louisiana State University Agricultural Center reports: "El Nino is predicted to bring a wet winter to this region [US Gulf Coast of the Gulf of Mexico]. Calf morbidity and mortality may increase. Next Spring, calves nursing cows that are grazing rye grass on organic soils in coastal parishes [counties] may exhibit an increase in chronic diarrhea, abomasal ulcers, and failure to thrive associated with secondary copper deficiency. Rye grass pastures on upland soils that had a history of producing copper deficiency in nursing calves this wet ['97] spring will repeat unless cows receive additional copper in the diet. Reported via


A 40 foot Gray Whale was seen on Sunday 10/21/97 at approximately 1300 hrs off Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz, California by Captain Krista Lighthall of the Chardonnay II. Less unusual and current, I observed a 75 foot Blue Whale near the Davenport Upwelling site on October 5, 1997, heading south.--Cynthia Le Doux-Bloom


Louise Williams writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, October 22, 1997, reports that the fire and smoke situation in that country are getting worse and that relief from the monsoons may be delayed. Visibility has dropped locally to less than five meters, resulting in a collision and loss of a ferry, with four dead and 21 missing in Kalimatan.

Monsoons are two to three months late and hot and dry conditions continue. Villagers are abandoning their homes in search of water. In Irian Jaya hunger and disease related to the drought have killed over 450 people. March harvests in Indonesia are likely to fail. Reported by Bevan Craddock


Mary Fricker of the Press Democrat reports EN has been good for some businesses along the California coast. Roofers, gutter cleaners, and road drainage contractors have been in demand., but at least one company sign now advertises: "Honk if you're sick and tired of El Nino".


"Maybe it isn't really the current El Nino that's causing the unprecedented warm weather and water here, after all--yet.

I just got off the phone with Gary Hufford, chief scientist of the NWS here in Anchorage. His office is cooperating with Scripps, UAF, Canadian weather scientists, etc. to track the El Nino. We all know that the warm water offshore of Alaska isn't the Blob from Peru. NWS thinks that it has built up over the past 2 years from a residue of the previous moderate but prolonged (5-year) El Nino. Warm water from that event may be recirculating into Alaskan waters, enhanced by the ocean's warmth from the long-term regime shift. And our El-Nino like weather of the past summer--the Aleutian low far to the west, a blocking high over South-Central--may be caused by the extremely warm water, not the reverse! Of course the calm weather causes further warming of SST's--etc.

The reason he thinks that no atmospheric teleconnections from the current El Nino have reached Alaska yet is that the first atmospheric Kelvin wave from the tropics was detected off San Diego on August 4, 1997. It certainly hasn't reached AK yet. And even our extremely warm summer wasn't enough to for oceanographers to explain the degree of warming in the Gulf and Bering Sea. Maynard Miller told Gary recently that glaciers between PWS and Petersburg are receding faster than he's ever seen before.

Gary said that El Nino weather effects really will arrive here this winter and next summer--and, added to current conditions, should make the ocean even hotter. Clearly, the effects on birds and fisheries may be spectacularly bad".--Vivian Mendenhall <


Dutch Harbor: The ADF&G conducted a king crab pot test fishery in the eastern Bering Sea in August and observed higher than unusual mortality in king crab held in re-freshed sea water tanks during a four-day period. The dead loss represented 23% of the entire catch compared with a usual seasonal average of less than 1%. The sea surface temperature in the eastern Bering during the test fishery was 48 - 50o F, which is well above the 44o F normal for that time of the year. During the remainder of the test fishery, the holding time was reduced to 48 hours and the deadloss was in the "normal" range. [Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, Nov. 1997].--Jeff June <


Dutch Harbor, Alaska--Fearing excessive deadloss of their king crab catch, Alaska crab fishermen choose to deliver their king crab catch from the recently complete Pribilof Island king crab season to local ports and at-sea processors nearer the fishing grounds instead of to processors in Dutch Harbor. The crabbers feared too many of their live crab would die due to excessively warmer surface sea water found farther south near Dutch Harbor. It is not known whether the warmer waters in the eastern Bering Sea are being caused directly by El Nino but it may be an indirect effect of the unusually good weather (generally clear skies, light winds, and calm seas) that has prevailed in the area all summer and fall. [Alaska Fishermen's Journal, Nov. 1997].--Jeff June <


Dutch Harbor, Alaska--The Alaska offshore trawl fleet has moved one and one-half times farther north than usual in the eastern Bering Sea to harvest pollock in the fall fishery. Although both the inshore (Dutch Harbor and Akutan Island-based) and offshore (factory trawler) fleet components began the fall season at the same time in September, the offshore fleet found abundant pollock much farther north than usual and caught their quota by October 2, more than an estimated one month sooner than that projected for the inshore component. The inshore fleet has had difficulty finding pollock near the Aleutian Islands where surface sea water temperatures are reportedly 2.0o C higher than normal for the fall season. El Nino may be affecting the weather in Alaska since fishermen report much calmer conditions than usual. [Alaska Fishermen's Journal, Nov. 1997]..--Jeff June


You might also be interested in checking out the (US and British) Virgin Islands, dates October 12, 13, 14. Unusual weather happened for this time of year in the form of strong storms, high winds and plenty of flooding. I don't have many details, but I was there during the "tropical depression". Many locals reported that this was not normal weather for this time of year. I usually go there every year, this time of year and have never seen anything like it. --Wendy Jo Shemansky <<


Martha Bellise, writing for Associated Press, reports that four people died of freezing or carbon monoxide poisoning in their cars while stranded in a record blizzard. The blizzard blew through the Rockies and onto the Plains on Saturday left as much as 50 inches of snow in the Colorado Rockies, 22 inches in parts of Denver and 35 inches in the city's suburbs. Drifts were as high as 15 feet. Highways in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado were impassible. Snow-plowing crews were hampered by cars abandoned in mid road. In Colorado, four people were found dead in their cars and were believed to have died from freezing or carbon monoxide poisoning. At least four others died, two of exposure while lost in the snow. Denver received almost two feet of snow; its suburbs received almost three feet. In the Rockies, up to 50 inches fell. (While it is not clear that ENSO is directly responsible for the blizzard, Colorado's last major storm also occurred during an ENSO year, 1983.--Ed.)


El Niño Induced Ocean Eddies in the Gulf of Alaska by Arne Melsom(1), Harley E. Hurlburt(2), E. Joseph Metzger(2), Steven D. Meyers(3) and James J. O'Brien(3) (1) Department of Geophysics, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1022, Blindern, N-0315, Oslo, Norway. (2) Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, MS, 39529-5004, USA. (3) Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-3041, USA. ABSTRACT: Observations reveal substantial eddy activity in the Gulf of Alaska, with the Sitka eddy being a frequently observed anticyclonic feature near 57 N. A unique high-resolution numerical model that accurately reproduces eddy formation, size, and lifetime is able to duplicate the observations. The decadal simulation allows examination of interannual variations in the eddy activity. Interannual variability in the upper ocean coastal circulation in the Gulf of Alaska is due to the El Nino/Southern Oscillation phenomenon in the tropical Pacific. El Nino events destabilize the Alaska Current, creating multiple strong anticyclonic eddies along the coast. These eddies then slowly propagate into the Gulf of Alaska and live for years. El Viejo (La Nina) events generally suppress eddy formation. This high latitude El Nino phenomena must have a major effect on local fisheries. (Teleconnections may thus be products of past ENSO events, complicating the search for cause and effect--Ed.)


October 12: A young gray whale was seen 150 feet off Point Fermin of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in mid-afternoon. When first observed, it was swimming generally north along the coastline, then turned back to investigate a lobster buoy. It apparently became entangled and for a half-hour was observed and photographed thrashing, rolling, lunging, etc., apparently trying to free itself. After one vertical dive, it became free of the line and was last seen swimming south. A short time later the same day, an apparent cow-calf pair were seen just off Cabrillo Beach, a half-mile south of Pt. Fermin. It is not known if this is the same "young whale" spotted earlier, but seems likely. Very unusual to see gray whales this early in the migration off this part of the coast. October 20: For the second time within a month, a great white shark and a cetacean mix it up in nearshore waters. This time, a great white was photographed by fishermen about one mile off Pt. Fermin with a dolphin (sp?) in its mouth. The proximity suggests tursiops, but the white coloration on the beak in one photo is more typical of delphinus. We're sending photos to Peter Pyle as soon as we can get the negs from the fishermen.--Katy Penland <


ANN ARBOR: "Most people associate El Nino with unusually good fishing on the West coast and warmer-than-usual winters in the East. Few links have been drawn between the periodic weather phenomenon and the middle of the country---until now, that is. New climatological research by a pair of University of Michigan engineers suggests that peaks in the El Nino cycle correspond with surges in storm strength, water levels and destruction on the shores of the Great Lakes. Moreover, because of the intensity of the current El Nino, residents of the Great Lakes region should consider bracing for what could be one of the most destructive storm seasons on record. Guy and Lorelle Meadows, researchers in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, have found a correlation between El Nino years and elevated storm wave energies in the Great Lakes. "It's ongoing research. We're still trying to figure out the total impact of this," said Lorelle Meadows, a research scientist. Even so, they said, the correlation appears to be quite strong. "Wave conditions on the Great Lakes, if we are right, may reach an all-time high in terms of their intensity," said her husband, Guy Meadows, an associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering. The couple derived the correlation by overlaying decades of Great Lakes storm data and water level fluctuations and comparing the results with El Nino strengths and dates. The result is a well-tracked pair of curves that seem to fluctuate in lock-step with each other. Great Lakes storm damage occurs when wave energies are high and water levels are on the rise. These coupled events seem to follow major El Nino episodes. The scientists are not certain how El Nino influences Midwestern weather. However, one explanation is most likely: El Nino currents heat up the Pacific Ocean, spawning more frequent, stronger storms. Evidence suggests that these storms take paths over the Midwest, thus imparting a more direct impact on the Great Lakes basin than during normal years. This in turn leads to increased storminess and more powerful waves, which, in combination with high water levels, can be devastating to coastal areas. In 1984 and 1985, storms caused some $130 million damage to the Great Lakes region. That period immediately followed the strongest El Nino in the last 20 years, according to the researchers".--Adam Marcus <

27 October 1997. TENNESSEE. CLIMATE

I am in Tennessee, USA, zone 5: In the Spring it rained and rained and rained. We set a record for the number of consecutive days of rain. Things started growing and looking green but then started getting various fungus and rot because we couldn't get any sunshine. Just a day or two would have helped. But even when it wasn't raining, there would be a cloud-cover, it seemed. Finally, it stopped raining, and I mean it stopped. I have never had to water anything in my garden for the years I have had it. I have mostly perennials and it always before rained about once a week. After the rain stopped, the sun shined....and shined...and bore down on us for months. I think these two events greatly weakened my plants. I am hoping we do not have these conditions next year or I will start to see plants die. Also, we had such a plague of Japanese beetles that many of my flowering plants and roses were eaten up all summer. I don't know whether to blame that on El Nino or not..-- Joseph Rizzo < via Newsgroups: rec.gardens


I know there has been a prediction of a warm wet winter for Alaska, but I haven't seen it. I am going on my third week in a row with temperatures at 20 degrees F or lower. With no snow cover to boot. We have had one storm that 4 - 6 inches to the areas all around Wasilla, but most of my town got just a light dusting. It was 0 degrees F the night before last, and is only 4 F right now. I sure hope I got mu mulch on soon enough, or my bulb plantings are history. The frost depth is already deeper than a foot. This is not a warm winter so far.--Jaime Rodriguez <


As part of a research project on American eel productivity for a watershed, we have to estimate the number of eel that migrate to the sea.. . . This year, we observed an odd phenomenon during eel migration: from August until now there was almost no rain (10% of normal rainfall). Water rises were not recorded and temperature dropped rapidly. Silver eel migration to the sea was stopped early in the season and water temp. is now around 4&deg;C in the river. My question is: What will happen for a catadromous fish, physiologically ready for seaward migration that do not meet environmental condition (water rises) before becoming torpid (below 10&deg;C)? If somebody has any answer, comments or experience that could help me, I would appreciate it. You could reply directly to me and I will do a summary for the entire list.-- Guy Verreault < via <FISH ECOLOGY@SEGATE.SUNET.SE


I have been compiling data and reports from participating observers in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia mostly timed seawatches from sites in Oregon and Washington. These data are being archived at: El Nino related occurrences include a large irruption of Elegant Tern up to BC, Brown Pelican sightings up to and large numbers remaining beyond expected departure dates, Xantus' Murrelet on the central Oregon Coast, Brown Booby in Northern Washington. There is also an unusual irruption of Tropical Kingbirds which seems oddly coincidental.--Mike Patterson <


Memphis, extreme SW Tennessee: This fall started way above average but over the last 3 weeks only once or twice has the temperature been above normal.We've also experienced 2-3 frosts and a light freeze. This fall seems to be cooler and drier. Severe weather seems to be down a lot from last year when we had a good deal of it. If the pattern we're in now continues we will have the coldest winter since I've been here which has been since '89. Last winter was much warmer than usual and much wetter especially in February.--Ric Hunt <


Caroll Benfell, writing in the Press Democrat, reports that October rainfall in Sonoma county was slightly below normal despite the expected onset of a strong El Nino event. However, only 50% of ENSO events seem to lead to heavy rains in the area. If this is a wet ENSO, then rainfall may be comparable to the 55.7 inches that fell in the ENSO of 1982 - 1983 or the 45.6 inches during the 1957 - 1958 ENSO. The normal rainfall is 29.9 inches.--Contributed by Craig Harrison <


We are starting to see the influence of the warmer waters off the B.C. coast (and yet apparently the Kelvin wave has not reached us) --unprecedented numbers of Brown Pelicans have been observed off the west coast of Vancouver Is. (160 in one group). Just to the south of us, a Brown Booby was found on Protection Island (Washington) on or about Oct. 19th. I have been conducting at-sea surveys every 3-4 months along the same transect line (out to Station Papa if you have heard of it) since May 1996 and I am hoping that (providing the funds continue) the surveys will document the response of seabirds to the "arrival" and the "ebbing" of this major El Nino event.--Ken Morgan <


During the past three years I have analyzed historical NMC Marine and COADS sea surface temperature data in the North Pacific Ocean in order to provide a preseason forecast of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run timing (early, average, or late return) to the University of Washington and to the salmon industry. I have noted that SST below the Aleutian Islands, which corresponds to a portion of the region occupied by Bristol Bay sockeye, has been exceptionally warm compared to the historical range in the database (1965-present). Given that the warm SST started at least by winter 1995-1996 and continued into winter 1996-1997, it seems that this warming event in the western North Pacific may not be directly linked to the 1997 El Nino event; I also observed unusually warm temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska during spring 1997 but not during winter 1996-1997. The message by Vivian Mendenhall (Oct. 24), USFWS, seems to support this idea. As many have read, the Bristol Bay sockeye run (18.8 million) was only half of the projected run of approximately 34 million fish. Salmon runs to other areas of southwestern Alaska were generally below expectations (Chignik and Kodiak). In 1997, my run timing forecast (12.6% of run by 25 June) was close to the observed value (9.2%), but it erred more than in the previous two years for which I have released a timing forecast. A reportedly high incidence of sockeye salmon having skin parasites (not yet identified) was observed near Kodiak Island; premature coloration was observed in some sockeye captured along capes from Kodiak to the South Peninsula area where sockeye salmon are typically bright. Mendenhall suggested that ocean temperatures near Alaska may increase even more in the coming year. The tremendous increase in Alaskan salmon production that began in the late 1970s was correlated with an increase in SST during winter. The potential effects of a subsequent increase in SST on salmon run size and timing will be very interesting to follow in the coming year. --Greg Ruggerone <


CNN reports that the beaches of Rio de Janeiro has suffered major erosion because of changes in wind direction and force, creating larger waves that cause erosion. With the southern spring already starting, beachfront industries and hotels may suffer from the lack of sand. CNN does report that Brazilian surfers are happy with the higher waves.-- from C. W. Gilbert <


The Environment News Service reports that the United Nations World Food Program is trying to deal with the heaviest rainfall in more than thirty years in northeast Africa. The flooding follows a recent drought. Crops and entire villages are submerged. Heaviest damage was in Somalia, including one of its more productive farming areas. Thousands are homeless. and Agence France-Presse report at least 100 dead: 57+ dead in Ethiopia, 17 dead in the Sudan, 29 in Kenya. In Kenya, coastal Mombasa was devastated and roads wee washed out through much of the country. The rains are regarded as ENSO-related.--contributed by C. W. Gilbert < Web: <


The Environment News Service reports that a Rome-based task force of the United Nations World Food Program is attempting to coordinate intergovernmental responses and aide to ENSO-related droughts in Central America, China, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.-- after ENS <


Ugamak Island, Alaska--NMFS marine mammal biologists report a -16.6% decline in Steller sea lion pup counts at Ugamak Island in the eastern Aleutian Islands. This reversed an upward trend in pup abundance occurring in 1994 and 1996. They also reported surviving pups were smaller which has not occurred since 1989. The NMFS biologists believe they may be seeing an El Nino-related event similar to that which occurred in California during the El Nino event of 1983-84, even though they believe the full-effect of the current El Nino has not yet reached the Gulf of Alaska. Their observations provide evidence of a relationship between sea lion population trends and prey availability and also indicate that Steller sea lions may respond fairly quickly and negatively to a decline in food supply. [Alaska Fishermen's Journal, Nov. 1997].--Jeff June <


Late yesterday afternoon I had 4 adult Common Murres on Auke Bay (near Juneau) each with a dependent "chick" nearly full-grown. Each of the kids was begging lots vocally, and I saw each of the kids being fed some kind of forage-fish at least once. In ten years at Auke Bay, I have never seen adult Common Murres with attendant young, let alone 4 "pairs"! Which, of course, begs the question, has anyone at any time seen Common Murres with attendant young anywhere in the Juneau Checklist area? It's curious, for me, for two reasons: 1. What's the nearest substantive colony that these offspring came from ... I guess St. Lazaria? And then Middleton? Both are quite(!) a swim to Auke Bay (assuming the kids can't fly yet), i.e., low hundreds of kilometers. 2. Could this be an ENSO97 effect, i.e., are Common Murres bringing their kids into extreme inside waters because foraging conditions are not suitable in their traditional feeding grounds due to elevated sea temperatures??!!! The fact that I have never observed this in 10 years might be suggestive. If anyone sees any more murres with young, please let me know. Thanks!


Palmerston North: Two Antarctic seal species, a leopard fur seal and a Southern Antarctic fur seal were found ashore at New Plymouth and Hawke's Bay beaches in the last few weeks. Both were in poor conditions and were euthanized. Local investigators speculated that their occurrence might be ENSO-elated.--New Zealand Press Association via MARMAM


"El Niño is now creating a lot of havoc in Bolivia, South America's poorest country. The army and paramilitary forces have been put on alert to help the population in East Bolivia (Beni province) battle the torrential rains and inundations. Roads and bridges have been washed away, and some inhabitants have perished."-- A.H. Van Ginkel Camacho from CNN's ENSO discussion group.



Cruise Summary: NOAA R/V "David Starr Jordan", 06-30 October 1997 Itinerary: 06-14 Oct 97 -- CalCoFI; San Diego to San Francisco (El Nino study) 15-30 Oct 97-- TTOP2; San Francisco to San Diego (Sperm Whale research) Area: Mostly along and just off the Santa Lucia Escarpment (1800-2200 fathoms), ~50-75 nm off San Luis Obispo (SLO) and Santa Barbara (SB) Counties, California (unless otherwise indicated). Sea surface temperatures average ~18 C (range: 16 -19 C). Interesting cruise off California (mostly ~60 nautical miles off SLO and SB Counties) off the Santa Lucia Escarpment through October. This was specifically a sperm whale study. In these offshore slope waters, "El Nino" birds didn't amount to much (if at all) and were generally disappointing (Red-footed Booby was best, and perhaps not significant enough on its own to be interpreted as being "El Nino" related, although it may well be). Otherwise, it was pretty much "business as usual" in the seabird department; sparse(!); birds tending toward colder water and Alaska species (notably minus Black-legged Kittiwakes). There were a few obligatory Red-billed Tropicbirds that always seem to be around in small numbers at least in late summer and fall; other honorable mentions included Cook's Petrel, and 7 species of storm petrels (including Wilson's and Band-rumped). Alcids were generally extremely sparse. Surprising to me at least, was the scarcity of Xantus/Craveri's Murrelets, however a single Parakeet Auklet (!) was quite unexpected. Northern Fulmars were the most widespread and frequently encountered species while Black-legged Kittiwakes were notable in their complete absence. Inbound (San Diego) over and around Cortes Bank on 10/29 was beautiful, calm, warm, and virtually birdless, save for a handful of Western Gulls. Bummer. If a dispersion of "El Nino" seabirds could be interpreted anywhere, it would have to be coastal. As Elegant Terns wandered northward in coastal waters all the way to British Columbia in unprecedented numbers during the summer, it seemed a shoe-in for nomination as "poster bird" of the 1997 ENSO event. However, few or none seem to have lingered in the Pacific Northwest after August or September. Perhaps, post-dispersal southbound birds all collected in the San Francisco Bay area in mid-October. A spectacular feeding frenzy of 1,650 Elegant Terns was observed as we sailed into San Francisco at dawn on 10/14, all concentrated in rips between the Golden Gate & Alcatraz. That stretch of track looked like a snow storm. I counted and recounted and recounted, always coming up with the same figure, plus or minus a few. Large concentrations of Black-vented Shearwaters (4-5,000) were just off the SLO Co. coast on 10/08, comprising 90% of all seabirds attending two separate schools of "short-beaked" common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). Scarce to virtually absent (compared to cruises in the same area last Fall and in Feb '97), and now appears to be attributable to "El Nino" were Northern Fur Seals. Dead and dying fur seal pups, 3-6 months of age, have been recently reported washing up on the beaches of Marin Co., at a similar rate as occurred during the 1992 ENSO event. Our cruise observations noting the absence of fur seals in the usual areas off the central coast suggest that the adults have indeed had to abandon their young and ventured further offshore for food.--Richard Rowlett <



"Las condiciones de un episodio cálido del ENOS (El Niño/Oscilación del Sur), conocido popularmente como "El Niño",continuaron intensificándose durante el mes de setiembre. Los índices de la anomalía de temperatura de la superficie del mar (ATSM) y de la presión atmosférica (SOI) que se utilizanpara dar seguimiento al fenómeno mostraron en setiembre valores consistentes con los de un fenómeno en su fase madura. En setiembre pasado, la temperatura superficial del océano Pacífico tropical (TSM) registró valores más altos que el promedio (anomalías positivas) en todo el Pacífico Central y Oriental. La TSM para las áreas del NIÑO3, que corresponde a la zona oceánica que incluye las aguas territoriales de Costa Rica, registró 3.24 C por encima del valor normal. Por cuarto mes consecutivo, el valor mensua l de la temperatura de la superficie del mar, en esa región, ha sido el más alto que se ha registrado en los últimos 47 años. Por otro lado, el Indice de la Oscilación del Sur (IOS), que representa la componente atmosférica del ENOS, continuó por sétimo mes consecutivo presentando valores negativos (fase negativa- característica de la presencia de El Niño); en setiembre alcanzó un valor de -1.5. Las condiciones actuales en cuanto a la evolución del evento son similares a las de los años 1982-1983, aunque el calentamiento actual de las aguas superficiales del océano Pacífico es superior al de esos anos. Hasta ahora 1982-83 era considerado el evento más intenso de este siglo, sin embargo, los valores de los indicadores, en este momento son ya superiores a los observados en la fase madura de ese evento.


La Evolución del Fenómeno y sus Impactos en las Condiciones Climáticas: La principal característica climática de los años ENOS en Costa Rica, es una distribución irregular de la lluvia tanto espacial como temporalmente. Usualmente se observa un déficit de lluvia en la Vertiente Pacífica y un superávit en la Vertiente del Caribe. Otra característica propia de estos años es la ocurrencia de eventos que aportan gran cantidad de precipitación en pocos días, dentro de un patrón d e días secos. En setiembre, en el Valle Central, las lluvias se regularizaron desde principios de mes. En el sector occidental del Valle las lluvias del mes alcanzaron un 20% sobre lo normal, en tanto que en el Valle del Guarco (sector oriental del V alle) solo precipitó un 60% de lo normal, de hecho fue el área del país con menos precipitación en este mes. En el sector de San José las lluvias fueron normales. En Guanacaste, la estación lluviosa se manifestó nuevamente con regularidad a partir del día 18: las lluvias casi alcanzaron el valor normal, en Liberia (90 % del promedio), mientras que en Nicoya alcanzaron solo el 55 %. En el Pacífico Central y Sur, el comportamiento de las lluvias fue deficitario, en la parte norte, Puntarenas registró solo un 40 %de lo normal. En el resto de la región las lluvias fueron casi normales (90 % del promedio). En la Vertiente del Caribe, de acuerdo a lo esperado, se observó una disminución de las lluvias con respecto al mes de agosto. Sobre el sector costero hubo déficits que variaron de un -4% en Limón hasta un -7 0% en Sixaola (muy seco). Unicamente el sector montañoso se mantuvo lluvioso (+15%). En la Zona Norte las lluvias estuvieron en valores cercanos al 80% con respecto a lo normal. Las anomalías climáticas más significativas se observaron en las temperaturas máximas: las estaciones de Alajuela, Liberia, San José, Puntarenas y Limón, que representan diferentes zonas climacticas del país registraron temperaturas de 1.5 - 2.0 C por encima del promedio. Tal y como se esperaba la actividad de ciclones tropicales continuó deprimida durante el mes de setiembre en toda la cuenca del Atlántico, sólo se desarrolló el huracán ERIKA. La última vez que esto ocurrió en un mes de setiembre fue en 1983, precisamente durante el evento de El Niño y es la primera vez desde 1929 que sólo un ciclón se forma durante agosto y setiembre juntos.


Perspectivas: Los resultados de los principales modelos globales indican que el calentamiento en el Pacífico ecuatorial oriental continuará hasta la mitad de 1998, con anomalías ligeramente mayores a 4 C entre diciembre de 1997 y febrero de 1998. Luego vendrá una disminución gradual a partir de marzo de 1998, que llevaría a condiciones normales para el tercer trimestre del año. Sin embargo, las estimaciones de los modelos a más de seis meses pl azo tienen un alto grado de incertidumbre. Estimaciones basadas en análisis de los años en los cuales se dio una evolución similar de las condiciones oceánicas y atmosféricas a la que se ha presentado en 1997, indican que para el último trimestre del año se podría esperar lo siguiente:


Zona Pacífico Norte: Una salida temprana de la estación lluviosa. En Guanacaste, entre la tercera y cuarta semana de octubre, temperaturas medias hasta 1&ordm;C por encima de lo normal.


Zona Pacífico Sur: Las lluvias podrían retirarse a fines de noviembre. La probabilidad de temporales por disturbios tropicales es baja.


Valle Central: En el Valle Central y el Pacífico Central las lluvias podrían retirarse desde la segunda semana de noviembre.


Vertiente del Caribe: En la zona costera, los meses de setiembre a noviembre pueden estar ligeramente por encima del promedio. Diciembre a febrero tenderían a ser menos lluviosos que lo normal.


Zona Norte: Los datos disponibles sobre eventos anteriores indican que en los últimos meses del año en esa región tiende a haber un superávit en la parte de las llanuras de Sarapiquí, Upala), en tanto que la zona montañosa (Zarcero, Ciudad Quesada) y los Chiles muestran déficit. En cuanto a la lluvia acumulada de enero a setiembre de 1997 en el gráfico se observa que la Vertiente del Pacífico sigue estando por debajo de los valores normales. El déficit mayor hasta setiembre lo registra la región del Pacífico Norte (Guanacaste y norte de Puntarenas) cuyo déficit acumulado varía en el orden del 30 al 40% del acumulado en un año normal, seguido por el Pacífico Sur con déficit del orden del 30 al 36%. En la vertiente del Caribe, a pesar de la disminución de las lluvias durante el mes de setiembre, los acumulados siguen mostrando valores por encima de los de un año normal hasta en más de un 50% en algunos lugares.


Resumen: La estación lluviosa seguirá presentando desviaciones respecto a los totales y el número de días secos de un año normal. La distribución de estas desviaciones varía según la region del país. Las estimaciones de estas desviaciones tienen cierto grado de incertidumbre debido a la gran variabilidad que presenta el fenómeno. y la habilidad limitada de los modelos para predecir a más de tres meses plazo. El Instituto Meteorológico continuará analizando las condiciones atmosféricas y oceánicas y emitiendo boletines mensuales sobre la evolución del fenómeno y sus impactos."--El Instituto Meteorológico de Costa Rica.



Nature 16 Oct 1997 included a report entitled El Nino/Southern Oscillation and tuna in the western Pacific by Patrick Lehodey et al. showing that skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) initiate a migration from their normal range north of Papua New Guinea to areas thousands of miles farther east, then return west. The movement apparently follows the eastward displacement of warm water during ENSO events as increased plankton occur at the edge of the warm water area.



Off Yaquina Head to Cape Blanco, 43 through 45 degrees N, 124.5 to 125 W, bottom trawlers and midwater trawlers have been capturing, and at times landing, Humboldt squid Dosidicus gigas since at least mid-October. One boat reported hundreds at the surface at night under the deck lights. They were actively feeding on schools of "saury-like" baitfish. This observation was 40 miles off the umpqua river mouth but catches have been made on-bottom on the continental shelf in approximately 80 fathoms.--Neil Richmond <



Stuffed full of fish and lobsters, highest density of whitetip reef sharks I've ever seen anywhere, one new transpacific species, found a new Cocos endemic wrasse that I will describe, reefs recovering well with NO bleaching from current ENSO, 24 spectacular waterfalls, need to eliminate pigs, deer, rats, cats, goats. --Ross Robertson < via N. Smith <



Rains continue per norm and the ITCZ is completely normal.--Neal Smith <



Three specimens of Lagenodelphis hosei, a dolphin mostly found on tropical waters, were found on the coast of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, approx. 32 S, 52 W. This dolphin has never been recorded in these latitudes, for at least 20 years. During this time, our laboratory (Marine Mammals Lab, FURG) has been doing systematic beach surveys along 120 km of beach, and this species has never been found. Two specimens were found by us, and the third (which was chronologically the first) was collected by GEMARS-Porto Alegre.--Andre S. Barreto <



In Lima part of September and October were cooler than August, when normally August is our coldest month. Now light to heavy rains are occurring in the inter-Andean valleys (Huancayo, Concepción, Jauja), from Cajamarca to Cuzco and Puno (localized yet). No rains on the western slope of the Andes. However, there has been heavy precipitation on the coast from Tumbes to Chiclayo. Temperatures there are about 3 degrees C above normal both for air and sea.--Manuel Plenge <



El Comercio, Lima, reports 28 cases of cholera in the southern department of Arequipa in October. Thirty-nine cases were reported prior to October but the Ministry of Health claims that this does not represent a new outbreak of the disease.-- based on a report by ProMED < reported by Dave Coder <



The Los Angeles Times reports that first of three "El Niño-related storms" produced rain and fender benders but no flooding or serious injuries in the Los Angeles area. The rainfall (0.28 of an inch of rain at the Civic Center) brought the annual total to date to 0.73 of an inch, still half of the normal expected rainfall. The "Pineapple Express", periodic pulses of tropical moisture, is expected to begin next month, producing the heavy rains characteristic of ENSO events.



Ft. Dauphin/Tulear: Thus far in Madagascar, we have been monitoring food stress and compiled available anecdotal evidence lending themselves to a possible confirmation of El Nino in Madagascar. The following have been noted: 1. Whale migration (2-3 weeks late both directions) 2. Lemur gestation period (2-3 weeks longer, or did the period start later?) 3. Dryer, more sparse vegetative cover since 1991/92 4. Erratic precipitation (over 100 times greater than normal in much of the plateau region and deficit rainfall in the rest of the country.--Lezlie Moriniere <



"Weather continues 10 plus degrees (F) above normal. Snow has almost melted in Anchorage, leading to November golf in Palmer, instead of dog mushing. Oil production at Prudhoe Bay is reduced because compressors that work best well below freezing are at risk of overheating. We also had a November thunder storm, rather remarkable. Indeed through the summer we had a series of fronts in south central AK, with at least two reports of water spouts, and with serious thunder." --David Duffy <



Guatemala: "I am a consultant for agriculture. I work with different crops, coffee, sugar cane, rubber, corn, soybean, banana, etc. We had a mild rainy season this year compared to the last two years. But mild regarding the amount of water we got through the normal rainy season, which goes, depending on the country region, from May to October. This year the distribution was the same but with fewer days of rain, so there were through the season several periods of 5 to 8 days with no rain, that was not a problem for the crops, because we had enough water and distribution. But now we are experiencing a very strange situation. We are at the middle of November and we have rain in all the country. Even in regions that are very drought. This is not normal. If you like I can get rain data and send it to you, from different parts of the country. This rain is affecting coffee harvest season, sugar harvest will start the end of November but if it continues raining it will cause a lot of damage".--Juan Enrique Leal <



Cholera has killed at least 12 people along the Kenyan coast, including the cities of Mombasa and Malindi. "Scores of people have died from cholera in Kenya this year, first during a long drought and recently due to flooding caused by heavy rains." ---CDPC-mail and, reported by ProMED-mail <



"From a terrestrial viewpoint, it's been warm, but recently dry, and no obvious effects on the plants and animals (vegetation drying up, as usual in this season although very late). So although we had the usual rainy season pox outbreaks last Feb-July, it has gone away again since the rain stopped. The major effects should come when the rain starts again, and it looks as though it might just have done so, this week. It has been raining hard every day for the last three, but before that nothing much for weeks. This may be just a blip, but it could be the start of the Nino proper, when the classic effects should start to appear."--Alan Tye <



Clarke County: "This month has been very wet in Athens due to a very active sub-tropical jet. For about two weeks in the first to middle of November, a strong storm system would form in the Gulf of Mexico and move northeast across the state. This active subtropical jet could mean a wet, possibly snowy winter for the state."-- Chad Harris <



Skies have cleared in southeast Asia after three months as wind and rain dampened the fires that cast a pall over the area; however, fires continue. Satellites show 2 'hot spots' in Java, 23 in Sumatra, and 35 In Kalimantan. Smoke and haze continue to be a local problem < .Up to five percent of the Indonesian population has been affected by air pollution problems, causing or magnifying "heart and asthma problems. . . mental and brain disorders, inflammation and respiratory infections, skin and eye allergies." Malaysia has forbidden public comment on fires, smoke and weather by officials, without permission, thus making it unclear whether full information is available about the events. There is considerable concern that peat fires burning into the ground may consume thousands of years of organic accumulation, increasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Such fires may go on from years; existing ones date as early as 1983, the year of the last major ENSO event. Peat is normally too moist to burn, but drought conditions can dry peat lands sufficiently to support fire. One major peat fire in Borneo is occurring in a government reclamation project that has drained one million hectares of peat lands to increase crop lands for rice. At least 19 wildlife areas are threatened by the fires, "including a World Heritage site (Ujung Kulon in Java), Ramsar Wetland (Berbak in Sumatra) and a Biosphere Reserve (Tanjung Puting in Kalimantan)", threatening endangered species such as orangutans and hornbills, dependent on such areas.--based on reports by Claire Gilbert, Environment News Service <, Indonesia haze reports <



"Here's a stunning jaw-dropping website and image for those of you interested into some follow-up to observations and comment I posted way back, now cyber-years ago (8/10/97), regarding the eerie aqua-green water in Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea (Alaska) this summer and still currently present. The satellite image is best viewed in color as it is displayed in "real" color! Enter the website, then scroll down, find, and click on "Plankton Bloom in the Bering Sea". There are interesting links to other NASA images as well, e.g. the smoke plumes over Indonesia, upwellings off Cape Town, etc. . . Turns out this is a Coceolithophores phytoplankton bloom, apparently quite rare in the Bering, as I've been told, and more the result of localized solar heating of the sea surface water due to persistent High Pressure locked over the area in July, rather than just flat out ENSO (El Nino). This does not necessarily dismiss ENSO completely from perhaps being a contributing factor in the High Pressure anomaly from developing in the first place."--Richard Rowlett (



In September, over 1500 furseal pups, 50 % of the year's young, have died of hunger on San Miguel Island in the Channel Islands, an event characteristic of ENSO events. Next spring sealions, harbor and elephant seals are expected to begin dying.--based on reports from Scripps Howard, <, and Reuters.



Associated Press reports that El Nino has been blamed for every "snow storm, dry spell and heat wave across the country" and even for "monstrous home runs this season" in baseball (ENSO was also blamed in one posting elsewhere for the stock market 'correction'--Ed.). Michael Glantz, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, stated: " The forecasters are saying way more than the science supports". Ernest Daghir of the National Weather Service noted: "Things about El Nino are not that cut and dried".



"Not much to report on El Nino and tortoises yet. Fall in Galapagos has been really warm. Little (almost no) garua. Tortoises MAY not be nesting as frequently as in previous falls, but this is highly speculative and is based upon observations from two field trips and the lack of nesting in the Villamil Breeding Center. I don't have any quantitative data, but Steve Earsom might (he works at the Villamil Center). Marine iguanas are looking a bit thin."--Howard L. Snell <



Ica, Peru: "Over the last week we've seen in all the South American sea lion Otaria byronia rookeries within Punta San Juan de Marcona, 15o 22'S, 75o 12'W, a high number of premature births (over 500 dead premature pups). On each beach there were between 60-200 dead premature sea lion pups. Air temperature: 20-30 o C; water temperature: 17 - 18 o C. We would like to know if anyone has observed similar numbers elsewhere. Thanks!"--Patricia Majluf <



Flooding has killed more than 2,000 people in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, leaving 210,000 homeless. Actually casualties are likely to be even higher but many villages remain inundated or at least isolated by high waters. A malaria outbreak is beginning, thanks to the breeding of mosquitoes in flooded areas. The flooding has also destroyed much of the sorghum crop. The Kenyan and Ethiopian governments have begun relief operations, but fighting has resumed in Somalia where international relief operations are trying to cope with the absence of a central government. --after < and Associated Press on 16 and 17 November.



The Anchorage Daily News today reported that aerial surveys of the endangered Steller Sealion showed a reduction in adults and juveniles in the Kodiak Island area. Pup numbers remained the same off Kodiak, as did counts of all ages in the Aleutians.



"Thunderstorms wreck havoc on breeding Socotra cormorants. (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis): Information is just becoming known that the recent and abnormally heavy November rains have had a catastrophic effect on the breeding of Socotra cormorants on Sawad Al Janabiyah in the Hawar Islands Bahrain. (November average 2 mm - total so far for 1997 over 60 mm). Michael Hill son of well known wildlife photographer, author and medical doctor Dr. Mike Hill has been making a documentary film on the breeding cycle of the Cormorants. He found on returning to the Island this last week to continue his filming that thousands of chicks had died over the weekend and tens of Thousands of nests had also been abandoned. It is thought that all young birds too small to leave the sand-scrape nest and join a crèche have either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia. The death toll could run into many thousands of young Birds. He also reported that all nests with just eggs in have been abandoned and, a week on, no further laying has occurred. These nests would also have been flooded. The number of nest sites so affected runs in tens of thousand. At the rest of the colony, about half the total number with older fledglings and well into their breeding cycle seem unaffected thus far, but Michael did also report an increase in the infestation of ticks on birds found dead or dying. As soon as further information is available I shall add a full report on my Web page: There could well be a a connection between El Nino and November thunderstorms. I have been in Bahrain 14 years and recall heavy rains in 1986 and again in 1987 but can't remember other years so well so I shall check the statistics and repost on this matter, but it would be interesting to find out if other Autumn ground breeding species have also been affected in any way by adverse weather during El Nino years"--HOWARD MARTIN KING < VIA <



Environmental News Service reports that computer models by a team from the University of Florida, the National University of Colombia at Medellin, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute and the Institute for Hydrologic Resources and Electrification in Panama will help predict reduced flows in South and Central America that could restrict hydroelectric production. Countries such as Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica are very dependent on water-generated power. Drought conditions during ENSO events increase the need to import oil for electric generation. The model may also help the U.S. which generates 15 % of its power from hydro sources.--based on a report from the EnviroNews Service <


The Anchorage Daily News of 22 November reports an unidentified wire service bulletin of 27 dead in Ecuador during the last three weeks because of heavy rains. Most deaths have occurred along the Pacific Coast, but mud slides in the Andes have also killed at least ten persons. Up to 10,000 people are homeless.


Air temperature: 60-70F; Water temperature: 50-55F (est). One Pacific white-sided dolphin Lagenorhynchus obliquidens approached our sailboat, CORCOVADO while at anchor during the evening of 6 July in Kenai Fjords, Thunder Bay, 59-34 N 150-11 W,. It circled around and investigated us, while rubbing against the boat and Zodiac. It allowed us to rub its back and side with a deck brush. This dolphin was distinguished by several transverse scars near the tail behind the dorsal fin (possibly caused by a propeller). The other dolphin was shy and stayed at a distance. We lowered a hydrophone to listen to its vocalizations. That night it returned to our boat to rub along the hull. When we returned to Thunder Bay on 28 July, the friendly (scarred) dolphin again approached our boat at anchor and entertained us with racing up and down the anchor chain, circling the boat, and making multiple jumps out of the water. It again allowed us to rub it with the deck brush and made a game out of squeaking into and mouthing the hydrophone. Alex & Kathy Swiderski on S/V PROBITY and Dick and Peggy McKibbens on S/V RAGTIME also had encounters w/ this dolphin. This is my first observation of PWSD along the N Gulf of AK coast in 27 yrs experience. (Photos available).--Kimbal Sundberg <



CNN (with Associated Press and Reuters contributions) reported thathigh tides and drought associated with El Nino are threatening nests of olive ridley turtles at La Flor, Nicaragua. Only 20,000 turtles have hatched his year, down from 185,000 last year during a comparable period. La Flor produces about half of the country's turtle production each year. Similar damage has been retorted from Costa Rican nesting beaches. In Mexico, Hurricane Pauline destroyed only about 20 % of the nests.



El Nacional, published in Caracas,Venezuela, reports that dengue cases are expected to increase following heavy rains and increased mosquito populations.Several subtypes of dengue are present as are cases of the potentially lethal dengue hemorrhagic fever.--reported by Dave Coder < on ProMED <



"This is just a short note about the effects of the recent El Nino in our pearl culture operations at Bahia de La Paz, South Baja California. 1. We registered nearly 4 C over the normal maximum temperature we usually read in the Bay, but this was only registered between surface and 4 m depth. This acted to our advantage because we moved the whole installation to deeper waters. The cumulative average mortality was very similar as the normal average we register during the same season and within the same size/age of pearl oysters, this is, very low (2.5 to 3.5 %).2. On the contrary, we observed an extremely high natural recruitment. Our spat collectors (even the fact that we were not using "the good ones") had averages of 150 spat per unit, when into those kind of collectors we usually had not more than 10 per unit.3. Among the other species associated to collectors of Pinctada mazatlanica (spatfall of this pearl oyster in Bahia de La Paz is in summer), we observed a completely different composition of the one we consider as "standard". Many species were absent and many other were "new". Vertical distribution was also all messed up both on the associated species and in P. mazatlanica. The maximal spatfall of P. mazatlanica takes place between 2 and 6 m depth and it is very rare from 8 m down. This time we got the maximal spatfall between 5 and 12 m depth.4. Every object on the bottom (old tires, ropes, the galvanized pipe structures we use for bottom culture, etc.) was covered with spat of P. mazatlanica. We believe that this event was a very important factor for therecovery of pearl oyster wild beds. We will follow some of these wild juveniles to see how they behave. Maybe in a couple of years the low density ofnatural beds will change positively."--Mario Monteforte <, forwarded by Barry A. Costa-Pierce <



CNN and Nandonet report arid conditions and strong winds are fanning more than one hundred lightening-caused fires in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Winds are up to 60 mph and temperatures to 104 - 115 F. Fires are normal at this time of year but ENSO has delayed the onset of fall rains. Observers are worried about a repeat of the fires of the 1983 ENSO event that killed 76 people and burned more than 2,400 houses in Victoria and South Australia. Sydney suffered its worst air pollution in five years. The drought and fires follow similar events in Indonesia, both the apparent result of delayed monsoons, a delay characteristic of ENSO years. based on reports from CNN and NandoNet <



The newspaper El Comercio published in Lima reports 30 cases of cholerain Arequipa and Camana with a significant increase in the last two months. Unboiled water and food from street venders have been cited as the sources.--based on a report by --Dave Coder < on



"A total of 4 301 cases and 146 deaths (3.4%) had been notified up to 25 November in Maputo City, other areas of Maputo Province and Xai-Xai City in Gaza Province, of which 2 637 cases were registered since 7 November. Maputo City continues to be the most affected area with 92% of all cases reported. However, the daily admissions at the central hospital in Maputo City have declined from over 200 to 150. Up to November 22,1997, 63 cases (no deaths) had been reported in Xai-Xai City, Gaza Province since the outbreak started there on November 5, 1997. Three suspect cases and one death were notified in Chokwe district in the same province on November 24. The government has reactivated the National Commission forEmergency Management, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, and the Minister ofHealth has set up and chairs the National Technical Commission for the daily coordination of all technical aspects of the campaign. WHO is working closely with the national authorities to coordinate the international response and mobilize resources. Several countries (Egypt, Italy, Portugal, Spain) responded toGovernment appeals with funds, rehydration fluid, tents and technical assistance.Medecins Sans Frontieres has organized a new treatment facility and is assisting in control activities. Agencies interested in further supporting the control activities can contact the WHO Cholera Task Force for details on immediate and long term activities."--WHO Outbreak pages <, reported by ProMED < and by Jane Tanton <



"Did the El Nino in southeast Asia already cause the stock-market correction? An interesting question and far from trivial. To begin with the current impact in Indonesia exceeds that of 1982/83 by a considerable margin. 1982/83 was a double drought for Indonesia unlike all other El Nino's this century which were single droughts i.e. normal, drought,normal (over 3 years). The only other El Nino double drought in the instrumental record for Indonesia was 1877/78 which event sent famine into the world in more than one country. It even has a name: the "great dry". Next, it is an elementary attribute of population ecology that population vigor, well being, growth etc depend primarily on productivity with particular reference to consumers in relation to producers. The productivity of Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea have all suffered significant set-backs. The Philippines has ordered additional rice, PNG has formally requested Food-Aid, traces of famine have appeared in east Indonesia.. Productivity throughout southeast Asia is "not good" to say the least, depressed even is more like it. Hong Kong is home to some significantly involved natural resource based multinationals having MAJOR interests in southeast Asia. Is it just faintly possible that one or two stake-holders shifted stock off their books because of the KNOWN hit to southeast Asia? Remember, the dry is not yet finished in Indonesia, it could go on all through December as it did in 1994. If 1998 is also a drought, i.e. a double drought - if the warm water pool does not dissipate by the next dry season (May-October in normal circumstances or less) --then what? Moving money out of a productivity dependent natural resource based company might not have been such a foolish option BUT, now we have computers that watch computers and react accordingly.......did El Nino cause the stock market correction? Is this notion just El Nonsense ? I think not and I lived 14 years in Indonesia from 1981 to 1994 (4 El Ninos I saw there and just came back from viewing the 5th)."--Robin Harger <



Reuters reported that the government of Ecuador has made arrangements so that seven million of its citizens going to the polls will still be able to vote, even if El Nino interferes on Sunday. Voting would occur a week later in areas affected by ENSO weather, such as the recent rains and floods that have killed thirty people.



Reuters reports that Peruvian doctors in a letter to the medical journal Lancet warned that high temperatures along the central and northern coasts of Peru had led to an increase in diarrhea among the young. "In Peru and neighboring countries affected by El Nino -- Chile, Ecuador and Colombia -- we anticipate an outbreak of diarrhea and dehydration in the coming months when the high seasonal temperatures will be exacerbated by the presence of El Nino," said the letter. They also expressed concernthat coastal waters warmed by ENSO may lead to another cholera outbreak if people eat infected shellfish (see 26 November 1997.Peru: Cholera).



The Associated Press reports that highways reopened after more than three feet of snow stranded hundreds in the Pueblo area last Thursday and Friday. One death was linked to the storm. The storm hit southern Colorado and was much more localized than the major October storm that disrupted seven states.



Earthweek (compiled by Steve Newman of Universal Press Syndicate) reports that the Roman Catholic Church asked for prayers of rain as the worst drought in 50 years continues.




The Anchorage Daily News reported two teenager girds dead and one missing following a winter storm in southern California.



Reuters reported that 6.67 million of 10.2 hectares of winter wheat fields have been damaged by drought in northern China, making this the most serious drought since 1972, the year of another strong ENSO event. The drought is expected to continue to spring. Fall wheat in Shandong Province is 14.96 million tons, down 7.82 tons from the previous year.



Reuters reported that New Zealand is sending relief to the atolls of Manihiki and Rakahanga, Cook Islands, following Cyclone Martin which left 3 to 22 dead, flattening crops and buildings.



Reuters reports that 200 or more fishermen may have drowned when Typhoon Linda sank more than 1,000 boats off southern Vietnam. Typhoon Linda destroyed more than 14,000 houses and at least 15 people were believed missing, after winds of 60 mph moved through the area. Reuters reported that one official called it the worst storm in 40 years.



"Between late August and mid-October 1997, thousands-millions of Horned Salps (Thalia democratica) stranded on beaches around Cape Cod. The greatest concentrations were seen on the Monomoy Islands off Chatham, Massachusetts. On one day it was not possible to walk the beach on North Monomoy Island without stepping on them! (So far I have not been able to find any references to other large-scale salp strandings...if anyone else knows of such references, I'd love to hear about them!)"--Jackie Sones <



Nicole M. Braem writing in The Bering Strait Record reports that sea ice is 500 miles north of where it should be in the Bering Sea because of warm, southerly winds. However, the Weather Service predicts colder conditions by next weekend, then sea freeze up. Anchorage Daily News, 1December 1997.



Reuters reports that Colorado State University Professor William Gray believes that Atlantic hurricanes were suppressed this year by the ongoing ENSO event. He also stated that he expects a trend of more frequent and more damaging storms once the current event is over.--via Blazing Tattles <



Mario Osava of InterPress Service reports that ENSO is causing "one of the most prolonged and intense droughts in the history of the Amazonian region." This has reduced water levels and normal flooding of the Amazon, increasing the incidence of fires (see 9 October 1997. Brazil: Climate). Manaus is suffering from smoke, leading to a several-day airport shutdown and reduced electricity because of reduced hydro-electric capacity. Lower water levels are also restricting river navigation. Hatchling river turtles are also dying as their nests are now far from the receding waterline. Similar events occurred in 1983, the year of the last major ENSO event.-- from InterPress Service <



Baja California: "We are still registering up to 5&ordm;C of difference in comparison with normal years. It seems this phenomenon is being favorable for summer-spawners species such as Pinctada mazatlanica of which we are still observing spatfall (it should have finished a while ago !!). On the contrary, we should expect the presence of good gonad maturity in Pteria sterna (this one is a winter-spawner at Bahia de La Paz), but there is not any mature specimen. Usually in late November and early December the presence of stages 3 or 4 in gonad development (this is almost ripe) is common on this species. We could predict a quite poor spatfall of Pteria sterna this winter, and I could even adventure to say that, if this weather stays longer, there could be no spatfall at all. Besides, a strict monitoring of water temperature and also of other indexes we have defined for previewing the spatfall of Pinctada mazatlanica, will have to be undertaken from February-March on next year. Probably the main recruitment of P. mazatlanica will be very much in advance next year."--Mario Monteforte < VIA Barry A. Costa-Pierce<



Here is our latest summary of "odd" fish sightings for 1997. With the exception of Humboldt squid, no new sighting have been reported since early October, coinciding with the cooling of surface waters after fall storms and mixing. Any corrections or additions will be appreciated.










Jul 31 


40 mi off Charleston 

John Seaborn 

Sep 9 

Pacific pomfret 

rockpile off Newport 

Jim Golden 

Sep 9 



Gary Hepman 



off So. Oregon 

Jim Waldvogel

Sep 22 

rosy rockfish 

off Newport 

Nancy McLean-Cooper 

Sep 28 

3 yellowtail 

off Depoe Bay 

Eric Schindler

Sep 28 

6 yellowfin tuna 

off Depoe Bay 


Sep 30 

Dosidicus gigas 

15-30 mi off Newport 

Dave Fox 

Oct 2 

striped marlin 

47N, 125.34W 

J. Williams

Oct 10 

1 dorado 

40mi off Florence 

Neil Richmond 


many large albacore, some over 50#

Oregon coast

Jim Waldvogel, others


sockeye salmon 

Rogue, Smith, Klamath R.

Jim Waldvogel " 

Oct 3 

juv. Pac. mackerel 

Yaquina Bay 

Dave Fox

Sep 4 

marlin (striped?) 

hooked off Brookings 

Jim Golden

Oct 30 

Dosidicus gigas 

15-30 mi off Newport 

Dave Fox 

Nov 3 

Striped marlin 

on beach near Newport 

Dr. Brown


The incursion of the large, warm-water epipelagic fishes noted above was associated with anomalously warm surface waters off Oregon and the lack of an upwelling front separating cool nearshore from warm oceanic waters. These epipelagics probably migrated inshore and are not directly associated with "El Nino water" from the south. Interestingly, of these big pelagics, only yellowtail were reported in 1983; however in 1983 there were many northern distributional records of small, reef/benthic fishes which have yet to appear during the 1997-98 ENSO. The biggest surprise to me is the migration of Dosidicus gigas, the Humboldt squid, into Oregon waters. This is a species that has occurred off southern California during El Ninos. It is probably a distributional record here. Large quantities of this squid (thousands of pounds) have been and are being caught by midwater and bottom trawlers--even into early December, after surface waters have been cooled by mixing. They are voracious predators on small fishes, as are the other migratory fishes, including mackerel."---William Pearcy <wpearcy@OCE.ORST.EDU



Associated Press and CNN reported 50 mph winds, eight-foot waves, heavy rain and one death marked the first ENSO-related heavy rains in California. Damage was expected to be lighter in this first storm because the ground would not yet be saturated: the storm was "not major threat". Planning for the storm included stockpiles of sandbags, cleaning of channels, and even a moratorium on weekend laundry to increase the capacity of sewers to handle the storm. Nine inches of rain fell in Santa Barbara. Almost eight inches ofrain washed mud through Laguna Beach, resulting in a local state of emergency. Twenty homes in Riverside County were damaged. Over 10,00 homes were without power for brief periods. A hiker in the mountains of Angeles National Forest died of exposure in the snow. Two people in Los Angeles died in storm-related accidents.



Very little air is rising in the Nearctic Hemisphere. Practically all is high pressure with lower central America being relatively low @1016 mbcompared to the desert high pressure over the Atlantic @1024 mb.It is Not raining anywhere in Mexico nor in central America including Panama. It is not raining anywhere in the Caribbean nor in northern Colombia, none(!) of Venezuela nor in Guyana, Surinam nor French Guiana. Likewise northeastern Brazil. That is a lot! So where is it raining? Heavily along the western slopes of the Andes from southern Colombia Ecuador Peru and down through Bolivia and into northern Argentina. The rains come out a bit along the Pacific coast of South America but NO massive floods and rains yet such as occurred in the 1983 in coastal Peru and Chile. The Amazonian rains stretch eastward from the Andes over much of the southern portion of Brazil and northern Bolivia. A firm temperature inversion has not yet formed over Panama so that some of the local convection (rising warm moist air) will come back down as local sprinkles to occasional downpour".-Neal Smith <



Lisa Ferandez, reporting in the L.A. Times, reports that California sealion pups on San Miguel Island, off the Ventura Coast, are starving as the current ENSO event has "driven away" the forage fish on which sealions and northern fur seals depend. Twenty percent of the 23,000 young sealions have died; 65 - 70 % are expected to die by June, twice the normal rate. Seventy-five percent of 2,000 young fur seals have already died. Mortality rates may be higher on other islands not being monitored. Other local effects of ENSO such as decreases in kelp may soon affect the local fisheries.


Reuters reported that six drowned and 500 were homeless after heavy rains in coastal and NE Kenya, near Garissa. By 9 December, 12 people or more were reported to have died of diarrhea in the past 48 hours. Thousands of livestock were killed and the area remains cut off from the rest of Kenya.--based on a report by Reuters, forwarded by C. W. Gilbert < and a report PANA < sent by Luiz Jacintho da Silva < to

Back to The 1997 El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO 97-98)


"Today the Intertropical Convergence Zone is south of all of Central America and Panama. The atmospheric pressure here and in lower central America is relatively high at 1012 mb. Although the big high pressure cell in the Atlantic is distorted by a low off Nova Scotia, it reads a strong 1020 mb all the way south of Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola. That 8 mb difference is what is giving us the northerly winds e.g. typical of the beginning of the Dry Season. False starts have been common! Remember the sun is "entering" the Southern Hemisphere which is why the ITCZ moves to the south as the earth tilts the Northern Hemisphere away from the sun. Rains are occurring in coastal and Amazonian Peru and Ecuador but Venezuela , Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana are DRY as is northeastern Brazil.

Major thermal activity in the ITCZ is occurring in the mid Pacific along the equator to about 4 degrees north. The ITCZ is south of all of India but still north of Borneo and Papua. YES, there really is a lot of warm water out there!!!(read El Nino).

During the 1982-83 El Nino, the DRY season started with a jolt on the 18 th of November. Its major effect was the knock out of the rainy season rains of 1982 giving a dry period in some areas of central America and northern south America of slightly over 6 months. Things don't seem to be as extreme this time around. Yet the Panama Canal Commission continues to fret about the lack of reserves in Madden Lake and in Gatun as well. Last week, this major waterway was down by 2.7 feet at Gatun. If the lake is roughly 168 sq. miles, that is a lot of water."-- Neal Smith <


Reuters reports that southern Somalia may again be inundated, threatening the homes of 40,000 people and raising the prospect of outbreaks of malaria and dysentery, as potable water does not exist. Twelve people were reported to have died on 30 November alone from disease and 1,500 have died in the past month. Almost a quarter-million have been forced from their homes. Further rainfall is expected.--based on a report by Reuters, forwarded by C. W. Gilbert <


With 26 confirmed cholera cases and 114 admissions in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas, authorities are testing water supplies to ensure adequate chlorination, although the outbreak seems to have originated from a single food stall. --based on a report by Dorothy Preslar < to


According to an AP report, Richard Fairbanks, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University is reporting coral bleaching and seabird desertion at Christmas Island, the world's largest atoll. Water temperature was 7 degrees warmer (F?) than usual, fish were scarce, and seabirds had almost completely deserted. "Forty percent of the island's coral was dead"--based on an Associated Press report sent by Mark Rauzon <


"The scene on Christmas is eerie! The Atoll is flooded and most roads are impassable. Most birds are gone, leaving non-flying young behind to starve to death. It is quite similar to the effects of the 1982-83 ENSO event. The other events in between (1986-87 and 1990-95) did not cause this total desertion but we had increased mortality of young and slower growth rates. Of course the effect varies by species and sooty terns seem to get particularly hard hit."--BA Schreiber <


Coos Bay, Oregon: "I was surfing Friday, Dec. 5, and Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Coos River mouth in the Pacific Ocean at Coos Bay, Ore. and saw one Pacific sunfish (Mola mola) both days. They were different fish both days, one larger than the other. Neither one was a big mola. Bigger one was maybe 50 pounds. Sunfish are common here in August and/or September. I cannot recollect seeing them here in December before."--John Griffith <lingcod@HARBORSIDE.COM via Fisheries Social Science Network <FISHFOLK@MITVMA.MIT.EDU. Water temperature is about 55 degrees F.--Neil Richmond <


The Journal of the American Medical Association 1997 (278: 1772 - 1774) published a paper, Cycles of Malaria Associated With El Nino in Venezuela, by Menno Jan Bouma and Christopher Dye, suggesting that malaria epidemics in Venezuela are linked to ENSO outbreaks. They reached this conclusion by comparing malaria morbidity and mortality to eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures (SST). Malaria increases 36.5 % in years after ENSO events. The correlation of SST and malaria in the subsequent year was significant at the .001 level but r was only 0.50. This suggests that public health efforts against malaria can be planned, using ENSO predictions. (Similar analyses of dengue and cholera would be very interesting.--ed.)--see the following url: < htm reported by Luiz Jacintho da Silva < via


An outbreak of cholera in a Nairobi slum of half a million has left 14 dead. The situation may be aggravated by a nurses' strike which interferes with treatment at local hospitals.--extracted from a report PANA < sent by Luiz Jacintho da Silva < to


Confirmed dengue cases totaled 360 and another 1600 are reported, with three deaths. Fogging equipment for spraying has apparently broken down and the government is making little effort to contain the outbreak.--based on a report by Nick Kelly < via


Just back from Baja - sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez. Great trip! Snorkeled with a Giant Manta, LOTS of sea lion pups and their mothers. Hard for me to think El Nino is having a negative effect.

The last big El Nino, in '83, the whales arrived, stayed & departed as they always have done. Think of it this way, they have had millions of years of migration and many El Nino's during that time. We do anticipate a wet season but that doesn't bother the whales! The whales are not feeding on their journey south to the lagoons. They live off stored fat during their migration and are mating and giving birth while in the lagoons. But, remember, Nature has no guarantees."--Jeanne, Baja Expeditions <


Zanzibar weekend deaths from cholera stood at 37, with more than 200 confirmed cases. Public festivities and sale of liquids have been banned and children are being kept indoor. There is a critical shortage of antibiotics for prophylaxis-- based on a report by


Seventeen small towns in Baba, Ecuador are flooded with water covering tens of acres of farmland to depths of four meters, drowning crops and livestock. Sixty to seventy families have been evacuated, ten times that number remain trying to protect livestock and belongings.

Some Ecuadorians in the highlands have donated a day's salary to relief efforts, other funds are being raised by a tax on admission to public events. Unfortunately emergency food supplies are almost exhausted at Civil Defense warehouses, down to only 1,500 blankets, 200 mattresses, five water pumps and five electric generators. There has been essentially no international aid. Roads are also being affected by the ENSO rainfall, with 1,800 kilometers of roadwork needed because of washouts and landslides. Several bridges threaten to collapse.--El Comercio, 14 December 1997.


Bismarck had a record high of 57 degrees (F) for this date, breaking a 103 year record.--CNN


Reuters reported more than 20 killed in a severe cold wave this past weekend. It snowed almost 16 inches in Guadalajara, the first snow since 1881. A minimum temperature of -11 F was reported in Chihuahua; maximum temperatures did not exceed 41 F elsewhere. Gales closed many seaports and coffee and other crops may have been devastated.


CNN reports that up to ten inches of snow fell in the U.S south over the weekend, closing schools, causing power outages and making the roads treacherous. One death was linked to the snowfall. Mississippi reported a record December snowfall of ten inches, the heaviest since January 1982. CNN with reports from Associated Press and Reuters


"The week of December 8, heavy rains and overflowed canals in Santiago caused flooding in parts of that city. In northern Chile, certain species of sharks and Galapagos turtles have appeared.

Northern Argentina in Cordoba has also been affected by heavy rains and flooding. This weekend heavy rains again are present in Concepción, Paraguay causing flooding. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, the El Niño is most active with heavy flooding.

In southern Peru (Tacna), ocean temperatures have increased and with it the abundance of small and medium size sharks and other fish of warm waters. In northern Peru, long but not necessarily heavy rains have caused flooding in the Depts. of Tumbes and Piura. Constant rains are occurring in the interior of those Depts. Heavy rains that feed the río Puyango in Ecuador which flows into Peru as río Tumbes has cause some minor flooding. This weekend (Dec. 14) the río Tumbes rose rapidly causing flooding with heavy damage in rural areas. Heavy rains have occurred in the Andes east of Trujillo and extreme heavy rains in the city of Huaraz with flooding and crumbling of adobe house. Also, snow-melting is on the increase due to high temperatures. This and rains have increased the volume of Andean lakes. There is danger of some lakes overflowing causing avalanches. As a precaution the Parque Nacional Huascaran has been closed. "Huaycos" or landslides have started in the eastern slope of the Andes in central Peru. Heavy rains are now occurring in the Tingo María area, Dept. Huánuco. The rains in Huaraz and Huancayo and other inter-Andean valleys are not attributed to El Niño, but to the Atlantic weather pattern that crosses Amazonia. Normal rains start at this time of the year with less intensity. The Oceanographic Institute has forecast that rains in coastal Peru will not have the intensity of 1982/83 as ocean temperatures have not reached the levels of those years."--Manuel Plenge <


"I have been following the ENSO updates regularly and with some interest. For the past six years I have been trying to investigate the relationship between seabirds at the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia (29 South, 114 East) and oceanographic conditions. Thought I might send some recent observations that may be related to the current event.

At the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia, offshore/pelagic-foraging species such as the Brown Noddy, Lesser Noddy and Sooty Tern have delayed laying considerably. All return to breeding sites by late August and had done so this year, laying usually commencing by early to mid October (Sooty Terns) or early Sept to late October ( noddies) and regularly on 17 November for Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. Although the two noddy species exhibit a fairly protracted laying period that appears to be regulated by the strength of the Leeuwin Current from year to year, the Sooty Tern and Wedge-tailed Shearwater always commence on or very close to the same date each year.

This year Lesser Noddies commenced laying on 12 November, the latest year since 1991(they commenced laying on 28 August in that season!); By 6 December there were less than 100 eggs in the 130 000 nest Brown Noddy colony and approximately 200-500 eggs in the 250 000 nest Sooty Tern colony. This year the first Sooty Terns layed between 12 and 27 November. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters may have commenced around 17 November, but only 4% of burrows contained eggs by early December, at a time in other years when approximately 40-60% of burrows would contain an egg.

Lisa reports that Wedge-tailed Shearwaters at the Lowendal Islands, off the coast of Dampier, Western Australia laid later this season and estimates of breeding attempts are 50% down on previously monitored seasons.

The Leeuwin Current was very weak this winter, it is a poleward flowing warm water current that flows strongest between march and august, resulting in some of the lowest sealevels on record. Low tides at the Houtman Abrolhos may also be responsible for large kills of reef fishes observed in late November. Interestingly, inshore foragers such as Roseate Terns, Crested Terns and Fairy Terns bred at their usual times, however the fish kill may affect Crested Terns fish catches since many of the prey recovered are favoured by this species.

It is certainly proving to be a very interesting season out here! We'll keep you posted."--Chris Surman and Lisa Nicholson <


"This morning local TV reported for the first time that medium to heavy rains attributed to El Niño have now occurred on the coast of northern Peru from the Ecuadorian border south to Chiclayo. Government prevention programs (cleaning river beds, culverts, building or repairing canals) have reduced damage. Nevertheless, flooding has occurred in certain areas. The río Tumbes is at present a threat due to heavy rains in Ecuador and it is expected to increase its flow.

Also, heavy rains have been reported in the Galapagos Islands.[I saw on TV a small river (?) flowing into the ocean.]"--Manuel Plenge <


Moscow reported its coldest winter in 115 years, to minus 18 (F?) with one dead and numerous cases of frostbite and hypothermia.--Anchorage Daily News wire services. 18 December 1997.


Punta Norte, Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. Very heavy rains coupled with gale force winds around the Peninsula caused exceptional mortality in Magellanic Penguin chicks. The first major storm occurred on 29 Nov. with torrential rain and very high winds from the NE for much of the day. Nov 30 th and 1 st of December had little (sporadic) rain but temperatures were unseasonably low. During the night of 1 st December to 2nd there was driving rain and gale force winds from the South. Over 2nd December, it continued to rain and remained cold. Conditions improved on 3rd December. The heavy rains resulted in flooding in a great many penguin nests and large numbers of chicks died as a result. A section of the colony where we had marked and weighed chicks had 58% mortality (38 chicks of 66). Masses of chicks were between 200 and 1200 g.--Rory Wilson <


Chile reports that shellfish in Antofagasta, northern Chile, are contaminated with the microalga, Dinophysus acuta, which produces a toxin that causes gastroenteritis in humans. Over 320 cases have been been reported. Harvesting and sales have been banned in the area. Peru has also begun surveys for red tides in its southern areas adjacent to Chile. --La Tercera, on-line edition, summary and translation by Dave Coder < via Dorothy Preslar <


In Mogadishu, Reuters reports that over 700 Somalis, mostly children, have severe diarrhea and cholera; 41 children have died of cholera. There is no central government so prospects for control seem dim.


Western Australia: Associated Press reports three large wildfires killed two people, scorched 60,000 acres, damaged the local wheat crop, and barbecued 10,000 sheep on the hoof before cooler weather helped get things under control.


CNN reports that El Nino has emerged as a theme for Christmas shopping for the well-equipt Californian. Plastic covers for cell phones, $400 umbrellas and pre-filled sandbags are among the essential items being offered.


Low temperatures of -20 (C) have killed 13 homeless people as Rumania shivered in the lowest temperatures in twenty years.


CNN (using material from the Associated Press) reports that Typhoon Paka, packing gusts to 236 mph, devastated Guam. Thousands are homeless and damage was estimated at more than $100 million. Sustained winds of 150 mph battered the island for 12 hours, leaving no airport, no electricity, and no schools. Low barometric pressure triggered nine births. The U.S. Airforce moved its planes to Korea and the Navy sent its ships to sea to get out of danger.


CNN reports (with additional material form Reuters) that rains related to ENSO have triggered a cholera outbreak in Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia. Zanzibar has had over 600 hospital cases of cholera in the last three weeks, with 118 dead. Over 20 are dead in Mogadishu, Somalia. Cholera in Nairobi slums have killed more than 30, as well as 50 in eastern coastal Kenya and two dozen in western Kenya. A nurses' strike compounds problems in Kenya.


CNN reports that the Itar-Tass news agency reported temperature of - 28 degrees (C) and gales (minus 18.4 Fahrenheit) have shocked Black Sea resorts, left without electricity and heat. One person is reported dead. Twenty three people have died in the current cold wave.


NandoNet < reports that ENSO has been good for New England snow country, with snow since Thanksgiving. Stowe has had 114 inches to date, the third heaviest snowfall. Eighty five percent of areas are open.-- passed along by C. W. Gilbert <


"Lower Central America, Panama and northern South America are locked in the grip of a 1016 mb extension of the huge, clockwise (i.e. from the east) high pressure cell (1024 mb) over the Atlantic, the so- called Bermuda High. With that on top of us, we will not get convective rain. Three low pressure systems crossing North America (giving snow and rain) have distorted this mass of dry air (the Bermuda High) so that the air circulation is producing winds blowing almost directly FROM the east to the west. Only as they strike Central America do they change their vector and appear to come from the north. (The classical Northeast Trade Wind). This great dry air mass has *moved* (the earth did most of the movement in its seasonal tilt around the sun) southward replacing the low pressure belt (The INTERTROPICAL Convergence Zone) of rising air and therefore raining . Today, the northernmost extension of the rising and rainy belt is (in the New World) on the Ecuador-Colombian border. It is raining across South America down to Bolivia and across Brazil. The pool of warm water in the eastern Pacific (EN) also affects places other than poor southern California!. There is a mirror effect in the South Temperate Zone. Lots of energy is being pumped into the frontal systems originating in the south Pacific driving across the *southern cone of South America*. Heavy rains in Argentina. Since I will be in Patagonia in two weeks, I am uneasy for I will go around the Horn twice in January (the Austral Summer). In Africa the ITCZ is well developed across Angola, Mozambique and up into Tanzania and out across the Seychelles. Well Developed means that it is raining...! It skirts around India but surprise, it is showing good activity over Indonesia and Papua out through the New Hebrides. Thus the Great Indonesian Low is looking as if it is going to reform (normal) after giving off its excess energy to the east in the form of the *El Nino* Easterly winds seem to be picking up over the Pacific (the normal situation) or at least it so appears today!!. No doubt that the remaining warm water in the Eastern Pacific will continue to distort the ITCZ in central and South America for the next two months or so. And animals will wander into places where they normally don*t occur. But from Panama, I can see evidence for an end to the 1997-98 ENSO."--Neal Smith <


"This is a summary of accounts of El Comercio in Lima Dec. 19: "Flooding and drought affect 120,000 persons in different regions in Bolivia. The flooded departments . are Santa Cruz and Beni, which border Brazil. Here 75,000 people experienced heavy rains "never registered before in Bolivia." In the altiplano, specifically in the departments . of La Paz and Potosí, which border with Peru and Chile, are experiencing drought and high temperatures up to 28&deg; C. The Minister of Defense states that it could become worse next January. In southern Peru, departments . of Puno and Arequipa the highlands are losing natural grasslands due to the drought and high temperatures. In the highlands of Arequipa there are about 100,000 cameloids. Some communities have began sacrificing llamas and alpacas for lack of fodder. In east central Peru, in the provinces of Satipo, Chanchamayo (Dept. Junin), and Oxapampa (Dept. Pasco), heavy rains and landslides have isolated numerous towns by destroying the mountain roads infrastructure, and about 1,000 houses, also debilitating bridge structures. Fourteen persons are reported dead, 800 head cattle lost, and 70% of productive land destroyed. Due to continued bad weather and roads being impassable aid cannot be delivered. In northern Peru, the city of Cajamarca is also having heavy rains with damage to cultivated fields. In the Dept. of Piura traffic sometimes comes to a halt for minutes or hours due to the rains that make roads dangerous as they could be washed away. In Tumbes the ríos Zarumilla and Tumbes overflowed heavily causing the disappearance of ten persons, isolating towns, and flooding extensive low areas."-- Manuel Plenge <


The Lancet < reports that ENSO has killed more than 2,500 people and displaced 1.5 million others in the Horn of Africa with flooding destroying infrastructure and croplands. Ethiopian coffee production will be down 20 %. The U.N. World Food Program and Medecins Sans Frontieres has airlifted food and medical supplies to more than 300,000 people in north-eastern Kenya since mid December. Another 120,000 Somali refugees in the area are also at risk. Diorrhea and malaria are increasing. In Ethiopia, 500 people have died and a quarter million have been forced from their homes. In Uganda, 100 are dead and 60,000 displaced as the Nile flooded.-- Luiz Jacintho da Silva < in ProMED <


El Comercio (Lima) reports that the Rimac and Lurin rivers have begun to rise, placing people living on its banks at risk of landslides, following heavy rains. Central Peru has been receiving heavy rain, especially in the upper reaches of the Montaro River, producing rising rivers. Temperatures are near freezing. The region's houses made of adobe may begin to collapse, with further rains.


El Comercio (Ecuador) reports the Ecuadorian armed forces are in charge of relief efforts for families displaced by flooding along the coast. The military and Directorate of Health have sent 74 teams in to prevent the outbreak of disease, especially Dengue and malaria. Four cantons of Guayas have been flooded, with heavy rains falling in 28 others. Two people are reported dead. The Banco Internacional de Reconstrucción y Fomento (BIRF) has loaned Ecuador $60 million to deal with El Nino, to be repaid over 17 years, with five years of grace.


Arequipa: El Comercio reports Arequipa in southern Peru had a record maximum temperature for the day of 29 degrees C, up from the normal 24 C.


Associated Press reports via CNN that Peru is making preparations to protect Chan Chan, a major archeological ruin on the outskirts of Trujillo, Peru. The world's largest adobe city, Chan Chan was devastated in the 1982- 1983 ENSO event. Workers are digging drainage ditches and covering ruins with plastic. Chan Chan is 28 square miles and dates from 1000 AD so only a small percentage can be protected.


Xinhua reports via CNN the death toll in western Tanzanian floods stands at twenty with 13,000 people displaced. Rains continue and the situation is expected to deteriorate. No diarrhea or cholera have been reported.


Typhoon Paka which devastated Guam with some of the highest wind velocities ever recorded and then rained on the Philippines, helping to break that country's drought, has become an extra tropical storm, packing high winds and heavy snow in the Anchorage area of southcentral Alaska. Anchorage usually gets at least one extratropical typhoon remnant, but more typically in late September, not the end of December


Reuters reports damage in Florida following a tornado may be up to $6 million, with 25 homes destroyed and two hundred more damaged. Recent rainfall is more than twice the December record.


Thousands of Guanay cormorants (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii) are moving southwards. During 21 th December at least 5,000 birds were observed near Algarrobo (33 21`S) and on the 26 th December near 15,000. These point counts are surely underestimates. This same situation has been observed near Valparaiso (33 06`S) and has become common since the last week.

Breeding of seabirds at Pajaros Niños island (33 21`S; 71 41`S): Only 1/3 of the Humboldt Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) that bred last year are breeding at present. Also, many breeders arrived late in the season (one month delay). Until 26 th December no Chilean Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus thagus) were nesting. At this site, between 1,000-2,000 pairs have breed in the last two years, starting to lay eggs in early December. A considerable absence of these birds has been noticed in the area. Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) are breeding in the same numbers as in the last season 96-97 (ca. 500 pairs) and started normally to lay eggs in early November. No apparent changes in clutch size and chick mortality have been noticed.--Alejandro Simeone <


CNN reports that 51 people have died in a disease that kills within 24 hours, following headache, high fever, and bleeding from the nose.


Reuters reports that a downpour and landslide killed one, with thirteen missing, at Ambar 75 miles north of Lima. Eight bridges were washed out and numerous adobe houses crumbled.


Reuters reports that the government of Indonesia believes that the effects on ENSO could persist into 1998, at least until February. Fire has already burned over 165,352 hectares (413,000 acres) of forest, including 44,000 hectares (110,000 acres) of forest plantations at a loss of $26.4 million). The European Union estimates a loss of 150,000 to 300,000 hectares (375,000 to 750,000 acres). The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates that one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of peat continues to burn.


Michael Byrnes of Reuters reports that the cost of this ENSO is less than had been feared. Australian tuna catches are up but rock lobsters and wheat are down. A major drought failed to materialize. ENSO is expected to fade in March or April 1998 for Australia. Darwin's monsoon season began in December.


Michael Byrnes of Reuters quotes Barrie Hunt, El Nino program leader for Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) that models of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide predict global warming will increase the frequency of ENSO events from every five to every three years. ENSO itself may also accelerate global warming "by slowing the assimilation of carbon dioxide into the ocean."


Malaria caused up to 700 deaths in Papua New Guinea and 400 in Irian Jaya during the recent drought. Warmer temperatures have allowed mosquito transmission of malaria up to 1700 - 2100 m in the highlands--based on a report by Budi Subianto <Budi@jayapura.Wasantara.Net.Id on


James Wilson of the Financial Times reports that the Panama Canal Commission may restrict access to the canal for shipping, starting in =46ebruary. At present ships with up to 39.5 ft of draught can use the canal and ships over 39 feet represent 8% of traffic. In February this will fall to 39 feet and might eventually go as far as 35 or 36 feet. The restriction is likely to last until July.



Crop failures in the last four months following a six-month drought, have killed 400 people in Jayawijaya, Irian Jaya, despite relief efforts that were hampered by transportation problems. --based on a report by Bachti Alisjahbana < on



Reuters and < report at least 143 dead from malaria in northeastern Kenya as subsiding floods leave behind an abundance of spawning areas for mosquitoes. A "mystery" disease present in Garissa and Wajir in the area affected by flooding. At least 555 people are dead of malaria in Kenya since the end of June and 2,687 in eastern Africa in roughly the same period according to the World Health Organization.--forwarded by C. W. Gilbert <



Associated Press reports 15 children dead and 700,000 facing famine in PNG because of the seven-month ENSO-associated drought.--forwarded by C. W. Gilbert <



The Associated Press reports that lack of snow may affect the running of the 11 January 1998 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon along Lake Superior. Mushers have been training with all-terrain vehicles on bare ground.



According to Lief Lea of Juneau's National Weather Service office, this is the warmest December for Juneau on record.--Bruce Wright <



Jalisco, Mexico, La Manzanilla, Tinicatata Bay, North of Barra de Navidad, 19 17 N 104 44 W, Air temperature: 80 F, Water temperature: 80 F. According to a local fishing guide, the waters are warmer than normal, and the fish have yet to show up. Normally he would catch dorado, sailfish, and yellowfin(?) tuna but they were few and far in between. Flying fish should have been seen. We saw none. Brown Pelicans were abundant, but we saw only a half dozen boobies (there should have been many), and never saw one diving for food. We saw one sailfish hit a surface longline about 4 mile offshore. While seakayaking, I saw two phalaropes (Wilson's?) dead in the water.We also observed a couple dead bird blobs on a half mile stretch of beach.--Jim Reed <



As of Dec. 18-30 bleaching was observed first hand in Galapagos. Roughly 20% of polyps of roughly 80% of the coral I saw was bleached near the top (mostly a brown lumpy coral, I don't know the name, anyone?) although I was only able to visit Santa Cruz, Bartolome, Santa Fe, and Espanola; NOT the islands typically known for large coral assemblages (Devil's Crown, Isabella). Hope this helps.--Eric Eisenhardt < via --Mark Eakin <



During 1997, England has third warmest year in three centuries, CNN reported, and the British Met office predicted that globally this might also prove the warmest year on record.



"Thirty children died of cholera in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern Kasangani region after drinking water contaminated by flooding of the Congo River, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday, December 24. The UN agency said in a communique that the victims were all undergoing military training at a camp in Kisangani. It added that 740 people suffering from a diarrhea epidemic were hospitalized Monday in the Eastern Province of the republic where aid workers are distributing drinking water.


The agency said although the flood waters were receding in the town, other towns on the river were flooded, including Mbandaka in the northwest. The extent of damage was not known. In Kisangani, the flooding destroyed 1,495 homes and left 7,726 people homeless, according to the government. The floods followed exceptionally heavy rainfall around the Congo River basin. The Congo runs for 4,650 kilometers (2,885 miles) through the heart of Africa before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The World Health Organization, UNICEF and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) began delivering food and medicine to the area at the weekend."-- Dorothy Preslar < via ProMED-mail <



Reuters reports that Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa suggested that recent El Nino flooding will make next year's recovery a difficult one. Agricultural production has been cut by the flooding and transportation made more difficult and expensive. Almost 2,000 have died of cholera in the past year.



"[The following report is thanks to Dr. Louise Martin, DVM, and Dr. Doug Klaucke, MD, Acting WHO Representative in Nairobi, who corrected and updated (Thu, 01 Jan 1998 13:06:02 +0300) my original draft of Dr. Martin's Monday conversation with me. You cannot get closer to the horse's mouth than this and we at ProMED-mail greatly appreciate their sharing this information. We look forward to updates. Dr. Martin is presently on her way back to Garissa. - Mod.MHJ] On Monday (12-29-97), I spoke by telephone with my ex-student Dr. Louise Martin, who is in Garissa. She is the only veterinarian with the international team there and the only vet in the region known to be working on this outbreak. On the animal side, thousands of livestock - cattle but especially sheep and goats - are dying or dead. Martin estimates the livestock mortality rate to be 50% to 75% in the area. The animals show a fever, with or without constipation, passing to diarrhea and snotty noses with or without blood, and then a terminal diarrhea (also with or without blood). There is a "viral soup" of conditions there, with a wide variety of conditions, some very suggestive of FMD (foot lesions but as yet she has seen no mouth lesions), foot rot, pleuropneumonia, you-name-it. The area has been without veterinary coverage for some time apparently due to severe flooding. Many of the dying and dead stock are being butchered and eaten. She has examined a 14 year-old girl who had just been taught how to butcher goats and who had fluid and pus-filled vesicular lesions on her hands, and lymphadenitis of axillary nodes. A frequently volunteered comment by the meat consumers is that the cooked meat is tasteless and soft like "over-ripe fruit", this is characteristic of high lactic acid levels. [Historically, this affected area is close to one of the areas where Rinderpest was not eradicated in the previous African campaign of the '60s & '70s. MHJ] They have confirmed over 300 human deaths to date. Most died within 3-4 days, some within 12 hours, of falling ill. The condition characteristically starts with a high fever, bad headache, abdominal pain, passing to vomiting and diarrhea. If they vomit blood it is a lethal prognosis, passing to epistaxis, shock, and death. Because this area is affected by undernutrition, unclean drinking water, multiple diseases and limited health services it is difficult to estimate the number of non-fatal cases that may be occurring so an accurate estimate of the case fatality rate is not possible. So far they have only got to some 12-15 villages, but there has been a stream of people sent from further villages in attempts to get help. One very ill small boy who had been vomiting blood was treated with penicillin and is now sitting up in bed. The medical facilities there are less than minimal, compounded by the two months nurses strike. Treatment seems to be limited at this time to chloroquine and penicillin. While the national government initially claimed that the "bleeding disease" is due to malaria (and there are plenty of mosquitoes and malaria), of the 22 samples checked in Nairobi for clinical malaria, none were positive. But this disease along with many others will be present in this area where there is extensive and widespread malnutrition. There is cholera in the same general area. Initial results of testing the [21] human serum samples at the National Institute of Virology in South Africa found no evidence of Ebola, Marburg, Chikungunya, Sindbis, West Nile Fever, dengue, tick-borne encephalitis complex, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and hantaviruses. Sera tested at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi were negative for yellow fever. Testing for anthrax and Rift Valley fever are not yet complete. There were three sera positive for IgG to _B. anthracis_ and one possibly positive for [PA] antigen. Four of 22 sera were positive by PCR for Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) RNA. Three of these four were negative for IgM antibodies to RVFV antigens, so confirmatory tests are being done. On the Somali side of the border the disease situation is very similar. Case finding there has been made harder by the Muslim need to bury corpses expeditiously. The single telephone line is in to the International Red Cross compound. The health team of some 8 individuals is made up of the Provincial medical health staff, WHO, AMREF, Medicines sans Frontieres, International Red Cross, and Medicines du Monde. The Kenya army fled. Local transport to check villages is through the Rural Food Program vehicles. The tracks are soft, deep mud. Thanks to the rains some villages when reached are found to have been abandoned. There is one helicopter, and banditry. Thanks to the national election (29-30 December) and the holiday season (25 December through 30 December were all national holidays), it has been difficult to mobilize national government support. All ministers were running for re-election and the country is between governments. The investigation is expected to continue to confirm the diagnosis [= or diagnoses], to obtain a better estimate of the magnitude of the problem, and to determine whether it is spreading. Prevention and treatment measures are also being planned.--Martin Hugh-Jones, ProMED-AHEAD moderator, < on ProMED-mail <



"The full El Ni=F1o is now here. Today's El Comercio reports rains and electrical storms in Tumbes, Piura and Lambayeque with moderate to heavy flooding. It has started to rain in the western slope of the Andes. This has produce further increases in river flow, "huaycos" (mud slides) are destroying roads, bridges, some villages and agricultural areas. The effect of El Ni=F1o is also being felt in the inter-Andean valleys, specially in central Peru and on the eastern slope of the Andes. Here the road that starts in Lima going east to Oroya and Tarma, has practically disappeared below Tarma in the jungle area. There torrential rains (13 liters per square meter) lasted more than 14 hours. In certain parts of the eastern lowlands rivers have risen and caused flooding but the rains occurred elsewhere. A few days ago, electrical storms could be seen inland from Ca=F1ete and Chincha, towns on the coast about 100 miles south of Lima. This is most unusual as these storms normally occur above 4,000 m.a.s.l. Some dead sealions and birds have washed up on the seashore south of Lima. At Caman=E1, Dept of Arequipa in southern Peru, it is reported that for the third day the beaches are covered with dead sealions (100+), birds, and mollusks. This is attributed to high ocean temperatures. Also, the city of Arequipa, Cuzco and the altiplano (highlands) of the Dept. Puno, all in southern Peru have extremely high air temperatures sometimes above 30 degrees C., when normally it should be in the low 20's or below. In Lima, we had a small drizzle on Christmas and New Years Eve, in my lifetime this is the first time it has happened."--Manuel Plenge <



In the newspaper "El Comercio" (Lima) quoting from 'El Observador' of Uruguay states that 5,000 persons have been affected by the r=EDo Cuareim in the Province of Artigas which borders Brazil as the river crested 12.8 meters above normal. The r=EDo Yi in the northeast overflowed due to the rains causing damage to about 400 persons in the Provinces of Florida, Durazno and Treinta y Tres. Officials say the situation is critical because two floodings occurred consecutively between 20/21 December and 27 December. Too many things are now happening to be able to report on all of them.--Manuel Plenge <



CNN reports that one firefighter was killed and seven injured in one of over two dozen wildfires raging across New South Wale. =20



The Bangkok Post, 31 Dec 1997 and The Nation, 31 Dec 1997 report 77,155 recorded cases of dengue and 178 deaths in Thailand in 1987 partially blamed on ENSO and its warmer temperatures. The ENSO/ dengue connection will be further researched and if confirmed will help deal with the coming year.--based on a posting by Dorothy Preslar < from <



Dexter Cruez of Reuters reports that Sri Lanka is concerned that a predicted ENSO-caused drought may affect the tea industry. No drought has yet occurred but onset is expected this year. Any drought will only be serious if it extends past the normal dry period into the second half of the year.



Reuters reported that Bismarck has a record 56 degrees F temperature on the first, the average being 20 F. Similar warm weather occurred during the 1982/83 ENSO event.



CNN reports that elephant seals are several weeks late returning to Año Nuevo State Reserve south of San Francisco.



Tania Mellado of Reuters reports at least 24 dead, with nine missing., following floods, mudslides and rain. Over 6,000 are homeless. Thirteen of Peru's 24 regions are under a state of emergency, with damage exceeding $12 million. Peruvian authorities regard this as "just the beginning"



Manila: potable water rationing in all areas of Manila is now in effect due to the El Nino. --Allan Vincent A. Bugia <



"FYI as of 1/5/98, Thus far the following "changes" have been observed in the nearshore ocean, over the California mainland shelf, in Orange County, California. 1. The coastal dolphin population has dwindled to an average of only 1 pod a week (approximately 10 - 12 dolphin) off any part of the Orange County coast, down from a "typical" non-El Nino/La Nina year of 3 - 4 pods of 10 - 12 dolphin. Also, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of dolphin pods sighted along the coast of southern California north of Orange County, from Santa Monica Bay north to Point Conception, ever since May of 1997. 2. Numerous examples of exotic - note: more tropical and subtropical- life forms have either been caught or drifted ashore along the Orange County coast all the way to Los Angeles harbor, than at any time in the past since the previous large El Nino (1982-83). These included: subtropical species of Bryozoa washed ashore at Balboa Pier; tropical species of puffer fish were captured inside San Pedro Harbor; green sea turtles off Newport Beach; giant Humboldt "flying" squid off Laguna Beach; "Dorado" or dolphin fish, yellowfin tuna, albacore, and blue fin tuna caught from fishing boats off Newport Beach and Dana Point; and red tuna crabs observed off Newport Beach and Dana Point. 3. The Marine Science Department at Orange Coast College ten times last year used their research vessel to carry out water column profiles of temperature, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen from the surface to a depth of 100 meters off Newport Beach within 1 km of the Newport Pier. In all cases the water temperatures measured between the surface to 28 meters were between 4 - 6 degrees centigrade warmer than they ever been recorded in the 20 years the Marine Science Dept. has been collecting this data. 4. The surface zooplankton and phytoplankton community (1 - 3 meters) off Newport Beach has changed considerably since March of 1997. Starting in April and extending through to the end of the year we captured, examined, has normally been there during non El Nino/La Nina years. One species that has become particularly abundant is the arrow worm - Sagitta - which began showing up in large numbers about May of 1997. 5. With regard to Physical Oceanography we have observed that predicted tides within Newport Harbor have been arriving on time, according to the N.O.A.A. tide tables, but at a height of approximately 10% higher than the predicted height according to those same tide tables. This has resulted in some severe flooding on Balboa Island, especially when it has happened in conjunction with a large rainstorm (Dec 6, 1997). We will investigate this further in 1998. 6. Severe rain and flooding within Newport Harbor in late November and early December 1997, coinciding with significant drops in salinity in surface harbor water, have all but wiped out the fouling communities of mussel, solitary tunicates, limpets, barnacles, and worms on the docks in most inner harbor locations."--Dennis Kelly < via Peter Bryant <



"Is it possible that the severe weather we have been experiencing in the UK and Ireland, especially in the past week or so, is in any way linked to the ENSO? My suspicions were aroused by the fact that ENSO causes extreme low atmospheric pressure systems to manifest themselves in the North Atlantic. As you may or may not be aware, gale force winds have been plaguing Southern Britain this weekend, and our local meteorologists are drawing comparisons to the October Storm of 1987, which caused widespread damage to property and the environment. I am not convinced, but it is not impossible that the phenomena are linked."----Christopher Fryer <



"UNICEF said yesterday in Kinshasa that the death toll from cholera in DR Congo had jumped from 30 to 211 in just four days. As in earlier reports, a majority of the victims are young children and adolescents and the epidemic is still centered in Kisangani (eastern part of the country). Various medical aid organizations are providing relief assistance. The Dutch wing of MSF (Doctors without Borders) has established an isolation facility in Kisangani."-- Dorothy Preslar < on ProMED-mail <



Jefferson County, 20 m s. of St. Louis: Temps. well above norm./ skies overcast for past 10 days; temp. changes very fast at times 20 degrees in a matter of hours.--Thomas Mueller <



Nicole Mordant of Reuters reports that the usually temperate Cape Province is experiencing 40 degree C and drought, damaging some local vineyard production. Eastern and northern South Africa remain unaffected, with near normal rain. The South African weather service regards this as the country's most severe ENSO event of this century. Fortunately dam levels are high and farmers responded to early warnings and modified their planting practices to reduce their risk.



Africa News Service reports that heavy rains in the Mbale district will make for a bleak cotton harvest this year.



Xinhua reports that Colombia will have to import cotton to replace production lost on its Atlantic plantations caused by El Nino and guerrilla activity.



County: Cedar County, Nebraska: Air temperature: Upper 60's on January 1st. Water temperature: Not warm enough to go swimming, but not cold enough to ice fish. Last three Months: It hasn't really snowed here at all. Whereas last year we would be having our fifth or sixth blizzard. We have had one snowfall that left a significant amount of snow. Otherwise it has just been a little here and there.--Heather Eskens <



"A major international newswire is reporting today that the Somalian capital, Mogadishu, is becoming overrun with cholera cases, and that the disease has spread to other parts of the country. Last week in Mogadishu there were 60 deaths, 19 of which were at the only hospital that has a operational quarantine. However, the hospital director, Dr. Abdirizak Hassan Ali, said the facility cannot cope any longer with a cholera case load of over 600 cases and more patients trying to get in, a growing shortage of medical supplies with only partial replenishment by the International Red Cross, and no fuel for generating electricity. The death rate, said Dr. Osman Mohamud Dufle of the Joint Health Authority, exceeds 20 per cent. According to Dr. Dufle, the health authority has no resources to use in distributing the 500 cartons of drugs and rehydration solutions contributed by the European Union. An appeal is being made for the return of international aid agencies to the capital city where, in the words of Drs. Ali and Dufle, the security situation is "relatively okay." --Dorothy Preslar < via PROMED <



Reuters reports 63 homeless dead in the country's worst coldwave in five years, as temperatures fell to 4 degrees C (39 F).



Africa News Service (The East African, January 8, 1998) reports that Tanzania will spend $1 million in emergency repairs to flood damaged roads and railroads brought to a halt three weeks ago. Over 1.4 million are facing famine.



Reuters reports that 150,00 customers in Maine, 20,000 in New Hampshire are without power following a massive ice storm that earlier left half a million in Quebec without power.



"For your information, I am sending you the message below which we are distributing through our EMPRES and RADISCON networks to alert our contacts in Eastern Africa/the Horn and the Arabian Peninsula. It summarizes most of the information we have from your postings augmented by that from other sources in Kenya. However, the situation is obviously evolving, and new facets are being revealed, continuously. This message refers to the current human and animal disease epidemic in Kenya and Somalia of which many of you will be aware. It serves as an EARLY WARNING MESSAGE from EMPRES and RADISCON. The human and animal disease situation in North and North East Kenya/Southern Somalia is alarming; some 500 people are reported to have died in Kenya and Somalia while mortalities in animals is estimated to be in the thousands. These figures are largely guesses and are, almost certainly, underestimates as the whole area is even more difficult to access than normal. Investigations are severely hampered by continuing heavy rainfall and flooding. Rift Valley fever (RVF) has been identified as the main cause of the human epidemic by the WHO Collaborating Centre in South Africa and is undoubtedly a significant component of the animal epidemic; abortions in small ruminants are now being reported. However, some of the disease signs reported are not consistent with this disease in animals. Anthrax is suspected to be involved, as would be expected from the predisposing factors in the epidemic, and there is strong clinical evidence of bluetongue disease affecting small ruminants and even, possibly, an antelope species (Gerenuk) in Kenya. The conditions of human and livestock movements away from flooded areas and concentration on higher land would also be expected to favour the transmission of other disease agents including foot-and-mouth disease, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia and morbillivirus infections (rinderpest and peste des petits ruminants), if present. Of domesticated livestock, goats appear to be most severely affected at present, followed by sheep, camels and cattle. It might be some time before the situation in animals, and aetiological components of the disease complex, are clarified. RVF, which affects humans and can cause very serious economic losses in animals, especially small ruminants, is transmitted by mosquitoes and, when weather conditions of high rainfall and flooding are favourable for breeding of the vectors, outbreaks may reach serious dimensions and cause extensive epidemics. The virus was originally recognised in Southern Africa but is now endemic in much of sub-Saharan Africa. In the last two decades West Africa has experienced epidemics. It has spread into Egypt and clearly has the potential to spread to other regions. An excellent description of the disease can be found in the relevant chapter of Coetzer JAW, Thomson GR and Tustin RC (1994) Infectious Diseases of Livestock with Special Reference to Southern Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. Rift Valley fever virus is a member of the Phlebovirus genus of the family Bunyaviridae transmitted by mosquitoes. It is a disease of mainly ruminant animals and humans. Classically it causes abortions of pregnant animals and a high mortality rate in young animals, primarily small ruminants. In humans it causes a severe influenza-like disease with occasional more serious haemorrhagic disease, encephalitis, mortality and retinal damage noticeable in survivors. Recent epidemics have shown higher than normal pathogenicity in humans and mortality in livestock of all ages and this appears to be the case in East Africa at present. Often the first signs of an epidemic developing are abortions in small ruminants and these may not be recognised as RVF until much later. Humans can also be infected by contact with blood or body fluids from infected animals which may occur during slaughtering of animals or handling of aborted foetuses and animal tissues. Meteorological and remote sensing data (Cold Cloud Duration [CCD] - = a measure of rainfall; and Normalized Difference Vegetation Images [NDVI] - a measure of vegetation density) indicate that large areas of the Horn of Africa have experienced unseasonal and abnormally high rainfall recently (which is continuing at present); suitable conditions exist for high multiplication of mosquito vectors. Without wishing to be pessimistic or alarmist, the risk exists that the RVF epidemic could expand considerably from its present relatively restricted focus in Kenya and Somalia. The movement of viraemic livestock could spread infection into new areas. The presence of disease in man and his animals, and fear of its consequences, might itself precipitate further movements of pastoralists and their livestock (together with any epidemic diseases they are harbouring) into other areas. It is also conceivable that the disease might even cross the Red Sea and affect livestock in the Arabian Peninsula, for the first time on record, if conditions exist there for mosquito reproduction. Hence this message is to put our RADISCON National Liaison Officers ON THE ALERT. We strongly advise the recipients of this message to be extremely vigilant for any condition which could be suggestive of RVF (and indeed other disease epidemics), especially if abnormal rainfall has created conditions for the multiplication of mosquitoes. We advise you to monitor the weather conditions and collaborate with your colleagues from the medical services. This is not Kenya's or Somalia's problem alone; the situation has th= e makings of a major international emergency and demands the highest vigilance in disease surveillance with diligent attention to emergency preparedness in all countries at risk. PLEASE REPORT ANY SUSPICIONS THROUGH THE NETWORK WITHOUT DELAY. The situation may change rapidly and we will keep you informed of any significant developments. We stand ready to assist in any way possible."--Peter Roeder <


"Tony A.J. Morris comments upon the issue of climate change and the possibility of the Gulf Stream shifting away from Britain and Ireland. In connection with the Kyoto meeting, this has been a subject in Norwegian news for the last days as well. It may not be of direct interest to birders, but it surely must be of indirect concern. Last night's news did, however, calm things down a bit, as says one member of a European expert panel: The problem so far is the significant reduction in the production of cold deep sea water going SW from the polar current coming down east of Greenland. This has far reaching consequences as a pump for other currents, partly also the warm Gulf Stream. But this change has already happened, and the Gulf Stream (which experts in fact says has a misleading name) still flows. According to these experts, there is no immediate concern that the Gulf Stream will change. The reduced production of cold, deepwater is reckoned to be part of a natural phenomena. And for those of you still reading this text, I have the following question and seabird related thoughts:

1. Does anyone know of any seabird study that is relating things to the shifting ocean currents?

2. This autumn saw one of history's most spectacular influxes of pelagic seabirds, notably Sooty Shearwaters and Sabines Gulls, but also many others. My "hypothesis" is that these occurrences were not only related to strong winds, but maybe as much to the distribution of the items they feed upon. The distribution of food along the sea surface may be a direct result of ocean temperature and prevailing currents. Maybe seabirders have already "documented" the things that oceanographers are looking for? Any comment is welcomed."--Tor B. < VIA Bevan Craddock, Penkridge, Stafford, UK


Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, Stenella frontalis, 92 dead on the beach at La Tortuga island, Federal Dependencies (eastern Venezuela coastal waters). Cause unknown -- A. Ignacio Agudo < reported by Peter J Bryant <


Reports of pelican deaths and unusual numbers solicited: Jim Keith, Eduardo Palacios, and I are seeking information anybody might have regarding the brown pelican along the West Coast of North America. This is related to our studies of the species in the Gulf of California over the past 25 years. We seek 1997 - 1998 observations, anecdotal information is fine, on what seems to be out of the ordinary numbers of deaths of pelicans (unusual numbers of carcasses on the beaches, etc.) and where concentrations of live brown pelicans have been and are being seen. These would be observations for 1997 or 1998. Could you e-mail us with the following information: Location Date (s) Estimated extent of deaths (along with your past experience to relate it to) Estimated numbers of live birds around (what area)--hundreds, thousands, etc. Any other related information, related events, etc. Did you find any birds that had bands or color markers? What were these? Your name and address for further questions, if necessary. Thanks for your cooperation, please e-mail if you have questions.--Daniel W. Anderson" <


The Associated Press reports that food relief from Mount Hagen, 150 miles northwest of Port Moresby, to Enga province has been halted because of looting, despite the fact that more than one million people in PNG face famine because of the ENSO-triggered drought. Further aid will require increased police protection.--via


"outgassing" occurs when the fecal and waste matter beneath the salmon farms generates gases which kill the farmed fish, and other marine life in the area. "Outgassing" is now occurring with increasing regularity on the coast, especially as the sea warms as a result of El Nino.""--David Ellis <davidellis@LIGHTSPEED.BC.CA


Xinhua reports the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that the 1997/1998 ENSO event has killed 28 in Peru and another 12 are missing, with almost 2,000 houses damaged and over 2,000 hectares of farmland flooded. Ocean temperatures are 4.2 degrees above normal.


Nicole Mordant of Reuters reports that, despite predictions of an ENSO-induced drought, heavy rains are leading to healthy crops across the region, but that crops remain at risk of drought for another eight weeks. Before 24 December, dry conditions in South Africa and Zimbabwe had raised the prospect of reduced maize harvests. The region's farmers had cut back maize plantings and had switched to more drought-resistent crops based on the ENSO forecast. Mozambique and Botswana also have reported healthy rains.


AP, CNN, Reuters, report a massive and unprecedented ice storm generated by the 1997/1998 ENSO has devastated large portions of five eastern provinces of Canada and the northeastern United States. Residents and the press repeatedly describe the result as "a war zone". More than three million people were without power in Canada alone. Canadian army and U.S. National guard units, as well as electric utility linesmen from everywhere have begun to tackle the problem. At least eleven have died in Canada. Half of Montreal was without power. In Quebec, three million residents, 40% of the population, lack power. In Ontario, 400,000 people are without power. In the Maritime Provinces, 20,000 homes lack power. Hundreds are taking shelter in schools. Air and rain traffic was shut down. Canadian damage could be more than $350 million, the costliest disaster in the country's history. Repairs could take months as some power lines will have to be completely rebuild. In the U.S.: New Hampshire: 60,000 residents (33,000 customers) are without power; Maine, two dead, 235,000 customers are without power; New York, five counties declared federal disaster areas (Essex, Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Lawrence) with 300,000 customers without power and more than 7,000 in shelters; Vermont: 6,500 customers without power. Area dairy farms are losing cows because electric milking machines lack power, leading to bloated animals that then become infected.


CNN reports seven dead and dozens missing as up to a foot of rain fell on Wednesday and Thursday in Tennessee and North Carolina. The National Guard helped rescue residents of the North Carolina mountains.


Sonoma County, 70 miles north of San Francisco 38".18' N 123".03' W: Jumbo squid Docidicus gigas, numerous taken by party boat at Cordell Bank. The first time in the Laboratory's 32 year history a local Bodega Bay party boat fishing 29 Dec. '97 on Cordell Bank was able to bring back a live Chilean jumbo squid approximately 76 cm (30 in) long weighing about six kilos (12 1/2 lbs). Anecdotal reports from local fisherman seem to confirm this is an unusual--if not rare-- event. However remember "Chilean" is a common name and that this species- if correctly ID'd is found throughout the sub-tropical Eastern Pacific. The local water temp on the coast remains steady between 12.5 to 13.7 degrees C which we consider warm for this time of the year. The sea surface temp continues to remain warm even during prolonged blows indicating the thermocline remains shifted as we suspected when I last reported in the fall.--Paul Siri <


Penguin Breeding: GENTOO PENGUIN: Monitoring of Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) breeding sites by the Environmental Research Unit indicates that the breeding pairs are up by 18% since 1996/97. The estimated Falkland Islands population is now around 80,700 breeding pairs. Breeding success so far looks good (November 1997)

ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN: Monitoring of Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) breeding sites by the Environmental Research Unit indicates that breeding pairs are up by 11% since 1996/97. The estimated Falkland Islands population is now around 330,000 breeding pairs. Breeding success so far looks good. (November 1997).

MAGELLANIC PENGUIN: Monitoring of Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) breeding sites by the Environmental Research Unit indicates that breeding pairs are up by 7% since 1996/97. Breeding success so far looks good (November 1997).

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS: Apart from slightly wetter weather conditions than might otherwise be expected, the Falkland Islands do not seem to be suffering any ill-effects from the ENSO 97-98 so far. Seabird populations are healthy, and rearing healthy chicks. So far it looks like being a highly successful year for most seabirds around the Falkland Islands. The Environmental Research Unit begins recording chick-survival rates shortly, and these will be posted on the board in due course (January 1998).-- Mike Bingham <


During the week of January 5th, hail and rain fell in Puno, southern Peru breaking the drought, although Lake Titicaca has temperatures three degrees celsius above normal. The interandean valleys (Mantaro in central Peru) and on the eastern slope (Chanchamayo) continue with heavy rains and the later with severe landslides. On the western slope of the Andes, rains continue to create landslides in different valleys and to raise the levels of rivers. Last Saturday it rained hard (for us) in parts of Lima. At Callao it was estimated as one liter per square meter which was catastrophic for old adobe mansions (in Lima/Callao we should only get a small drizzle during winter). The río Piura in northern Peru broke its banks in the lower part and women and children had to be air rescued. This weekend the río Tumbes was again raising and new flooding is expected. Cholera has been reported from several cities and towns but as isolated cases, not as an epidemic. I have watched on Peruvian TV news of heavy rains and flooding in Uruguay bordering on Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, in Tucuman (Argentina), and southwestern Ecuador. Unfortunately, no details were given.--Manuel Plenge <


Reuter's Greg Frost reports that ENSO rains and coastal flooding hit northern California this weekend and are expected to repeat next week. Rainfall records of the National Weather Service are 15% to 80 % (San Francisco) above normal. The rains have had little impact because reservoirs are still low, following a dry spring.


The Environmental News Network reports that despite NOAA claims that this is the warmest year in history, blaming greenhouse gases in part, the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) reports that 1987 was one of the coldest years since 1979, part of a slight downward trend over the last twenty years, based on satellite data. Using ground-based and ocean data, NOAA researchers concluded that 1997 was 0.15 degrees (C ?) warmer than the previous hottest year. However, SEPP blamed urban heating of ground sites and the 1997/1998 ENSO event for the heating. Patrick Michaels, STATE climatologist for Virginia, predicts that global temperatures will soon lower significantly ,as the inverse of El Nino, La Vieja or La Nina, cools the oceans. --Contact Candace C. Crandall < for further details.


Valparaiso: Air temperature: 15-25&deg;C, Water temperature: 17&deg;C, At the end of December 1997 on the central coast of Chile (33&deg; Lat S) an unusual number of young South American sea lions (Otaria byronia) of 1 and 2 years of age are approaching human beings in search of food, especially in fishing coves. All these animals arrive with clear symptoms of malnutrition. At this time, exist attempts of feeding three sea lions at the Institute of Oceanology, University of ValparaÌso and at least another 8 at the Natural History Museum of San Antonio.--Rolando Bernal <


Xinhua reports that the the Kenya Meteorological Department expects the normal rainy season, starting in March, to be replaced by drought. Meanwhile heavy rains continue in Kenya's Eastern Province.


The Los Angeles Times reports that Aquila Energy has provided the first ENSO financial hedges, "GuaranteedPrecipitation", "GuaranteedSnowfall" and "GuaranteedHeatingDegreeDays" which protect against ENSO conditions.


Reuters, KTN television, Associated Press, and the Sunday Standard (Nairobi) report that ENSO-generated rains last Thursday have left at least 86 dead in the worst flooding in Kenya's recent history.The Kambu River bridge on the Mombasa/Nairobi road has been washed out, breaking road links between the capitol and its main port. Stranded travelers were without food or water for 48 hours. Flooding also disrupted road links to Uganda, Rwanda and parts of the Congo. Rail links remain. Northeastern Kenya remains isolated, except by air, leading to losses in the tea crop. Almost $17 million is needed to rebuild roads. Mombasa wildlife tours have been drastically reduced, suggesting a sharp drop in this important sector of the economy. Rains are expected to resume next week. Mombasa is facing a food shortage because of disrupted road service. Nairobi, already facing a cholera outbreak, now must contend with lack of drinking water and burst sewage pipes. These latest problems follow earlier rains and consequent outbreaks of Rift Valley fever and other diseases that have killed hundreds. To add to the country's woes, locust swarms are expected to begin to immigrate from Ethiopia.


"Agence France Presse reports today that officials of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies say that the epidemic of hemorrhagic fever [tentatively diagnosed as Rift Valley Fever] is "out of control". The Red Cross puts the epidemic toll at "more than 450", although members of the Kenyan parliament announced in a press conference that 5 thousand have died from both the epidemic and starvation. The Red Cross says the disease can be transmitted through "breathing", as well as by handling infected animals and mosquito bites. The Red Cross statement said "We have to establish the magnitude of the thing and still we are unsure precisely what we are dealing with. We are sure there is Rift Valley fever, but is that all? We are seeing some strange phenomena and there may be something else out there." It called for a helicopter operation to reach inaccessible areas, vaccination of livestock, and supply of masks, gloves, and disinfectants for the disposal of corpses."--Dorothy B. Preslar < "[We have seen no basis for the truth of the Kenyan parliamentarians' claim for five thousand human deaths, but if one adds the 450 deaths (which could be any number 450) to the number of dead from other causes, 5,000 might not be an unreasonable number. During the 1977-78 RVF epidemic in Egypt, Harry Hoogstraal noted that members of his research team developed antibody titres as a result of merely observing a sick animal being bled out and butchered, presumably from having been infected through the aerosol formed from the blood splash. Experimentally, aerosols of RVF virus are highly infectious for laboratory mice and could be a source of infections for veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, laboratory workers, and people slaughtering sick and dying livestock. There is certainly a most urgent need for more transport and supplies. Whether putrefying carcasses form a continuing risk is unlikely, other than regards general public hygiene, but human corpses in the epidemic zone are being buried promptly by relatives; this has made it difficult for the field team to obtain tissue samples. This situation has continued for well more than a month. Rather than state the obvious, excuse us for pointing out to students everywhere that the national epidemiologic and medical reactions to this emergency are not what we would call "classical". The initial official response was slow to non-existent until the election results were in. We do not know what is being done now, how many cases have occurred in Somalia, whether RVF virus arose autochthonously, or even what the Kenyan body counts are. Clearly, this is a complex microbiological morass. We only know that the laboratory work at the NIV, Johannesburg, has been first class and that CDC has confirmed Bob Swanepoel's findings.- Mods.MHJ/CHC]" From our correspondent in Kenya: "Here's an interesting fact -- tell me if you have seen this: I have been surprised at the number of carcasses of livestock that are left virtually untouched to rot in situ. I mentioned this at one of the villages, and the elder said that the hyenas and the vultures won't eat them ... anyway, today, I was doing some planning with the MSF-Belgium people, and they sent a sanitation/engineer up to Garissa to work with us. I mentioned this in passing while we were discussing the disposal of the animal carcasses, and he said that it was funny that in the last Ebola cleanup he did last year, he noticed that the monkey carcasses were not eaten [scavenged] either. Blue tongue has been identified from some of the sheep samples sent to Vet Labs in Kabete. I saw the most unusual presentations in a couple of camel herds ... complete ballooning of the head and upper neck only, death by asphyxia, eyes very swollen, and huge mucoid membranous sloughs in mouth covering some nasty ulcers. No foot involvement. From what the DVO says, he and the vets who work with him have never seen anything like this ... It is a virus soup out there!"-- Martin Hugh-Jones < ON


"An outbreak similar to that reported in north-eastern Kenya has been reported in Somalia in the flooded area delimited by the towns of Belet Weyne and Johar on the Shabelle River. Four of 13 blood samples from suspected cases have been positive for RVF. [This area is in central Somalia and a significant distance from the Kenya border. It raises the distinct possibility that RVF may also be in the central Ogaden region of Ethiopia. MHJ] The WHO team assembled in Kenya has established a small coordinating group for the Rift Valley Fever Task Force. It will comprise representatives from the Kenyan Government and from participating agencies and international organizations in Somalia and Kenya. This group will facilitate the rapid planning, coordination and implementation of surveillance and control activities. The surveillance system in both countries will be extended and strengthened in order to detect and confirm suspected cases. Standardized clinical case definitions and reporting methods will be used allowing for a better understanding of the epidemiology of the outbreak. The WHO Collaborating Centre at the National Institute for Virology in Johannesburg has confirmed RVF virus infection in a second batch of 41 blood specimens. The virus was isolated in three specimens from human cases and six other specimens had IgM antibody indicating recent RVF virus infection. RVF virus was detected by PCR in one of seven blood specimens collected from goats."


The outbreak of Rift Valley fever, which had previously been reported in the north-eastern Province of Kenya, appears to be present in other parts of the country, according to WHO experts now in the country. Moreover, the outbreak is also equally serious in neighbouring Somalia. Approximately 300 deaths from this outbreak have been reported to the Government in Nairobi. The World Health Organization (WHO) has received estimates of an approximately equal number of deaths due to the outbreak in Somalia. The first reports came from the north-eastern Province in December 1997. In recent days, reports of humans and animals suffering from a disease with the symptoms of Rift Valley fever (RVF) have now been reported in Kenya's north-eastern, eastern, Rift Valley, central and coast provinces. These areas include some national parks and reported cases have also come from near Nairobi and Mombasa. "At this point, we would not recommend that travellers cancel their journeys to Kenya but they should be aware that Rift Valley fever is transmitted by mosquitoes. If they travel to areas near where outbreaks have been reported, they should take proper anti-insect measures. These include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers and using mosquito repellent and bed nets," said Dr. David Heymann, Director of WHO's Division of Emerging and other Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Control (EMC). A second team of WHO experts arrived in Kenya on 15 January and, in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, has elaborated a provisional plan to combat the outbreak. Elements of the plan include case-based, clinical surveillance in hospitals throughout Kenya to detect new cases and investigate the increased spread of the disease, and a systematic sampling and testing of specimens taken from humans and animals which have contracted the disease. WHO is working with national and international partners to improve access to the northeast of Kenya, which has been largely cut off because of floods, and to develop a plan for control of the disease adapted to local conditions. For the moment, information on the outbreak from northeastern Kenya is still sparse and WHO and its partners will be working in coming weeks to increase surveillance of and testing for Rift Valley fever and other diseases potentially associated with this outbreak. Rift Valley fever may not be the sole cause of the outbreak, but recent evidence suggests that malaria and cholera are not playing as great a role as has been previously reported. Famine, on the other hand, has been a significant cause of death."--: WHO WER and Epidemiological Bulletin, January 16, 1998 < "[For some time the official reports have limited the Kenyan deaths to some 300 deaths. The number has not increased as one might expect. This may reflect either an inability to reach new areas or news censorship. With the Kenyan parliamentarians claiming over 5000, the latter explanation may be what is happening." - Mod.MHJ] --ProMED-mail <


Maimafu, Eastern Highlands Province, 06 30.10 S 145 01.49 E, was experiencing numerous fires until around 3 Dec 97 when rains increased. Area is normally very wet mid-montane forest. During the study, leaf litter and mosses were exceptionally dry. The study found high numbers of netted birds in active molt or with brood patches. This suggests stress was not too bad for many birds. Found six active nests without searching. Fat scores of netted birds were significantly HIGHER than from birds netted nearby during non-drought years. These result were unexpected, I had anticipated more evidence of stress. Bird of Paradise leks (2) were active. A short note is in prep. I suspect that possibly the absence of rain freed more time for foraging among birds that are usually constrained in their foraging by frequent, heavy rain.--Andrew L. Mack <


Reuters reports that the World Meteorological Organization forecasts (http:/ continuing ENSO heat and drought conditions over southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and South Africa) until March, but that effects may shift to West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, a move that may catch the world coffee market unawares if ENSO rains affect the local coffee and cocoa crops. Tanzania can expect heavy rains in January - February.


Matthew Bunce of Reuters reports that Mike Davy, Hadley Centre for World Climate Prediction of the Britain's Meteorological Office predicts that the cocoa and coffee crops of Western Africa and the Gulf of Guinea region are not at risk of ENSO damage [but see 15 JANUARY 1998. AFRICA: CLIMATE (RAINFALL PREDICTIONS) for another perspective], disagreeing with WMO forecasts. Local weather is more likely influenced by Atlantic Ocean temperatures than by ENSO effects, according to Davy.


Xinhua reports 50 sea lions (Otaria byronia/flavescens) found dead in the last three days at Punta San Juan, 500 km south of Lima. Thousands more were reported to have died in the area, mostly pups and females.


Reuters and Nandonet ( report 17 dead and 450 houses destroyed following a massive landslide at Santa Teresa and Yanatile near Machu Picchu. The Peruvian army, hampered by clouds in the mountain valleys, is undertaking relief operations, but survivors claim they remain with little food or shelter, while afraid to return to their homes because of the threat of future slides. The slides followed three nights of rain, sweeping through two towns and several villages, leaving behind several meters of mud covering homes. Tourism at Machu Picchu continues, as the rail link to Cuzco is intact. The army reopened the link from Machu Picchu to Santa Teresa. Damage from the 1997/98 ENSO to date in Peru is more than 40 dead and $12 million in property.--via C. W. Gilbert <


The Australian Financial Review reports that major relief efforts in Papua New Guinea by the government with Australian help has limited the death toll to "hundreds" while across the border in Irian Jaya, the Indonesian government's refusal to declare a state of emergency and to admit international aid has apparently led to deaths, "estimated to be in the thousands",from disease and starvation.

Another report reads: "It is the worst drought within living memory. Malnutrition and malaria have taken on devastating proportions, especially in the areas affected by the conflict. Famine has reached the final stages in some of the villages in the highlands, with children and the elderly the main victims." In an initial report sent to Geneva, a team of ICRC and Indonesian Red Cross experts, who have been conducting a survey in Irian Jaya since 19 November, gave an alarming account of the situation there, especially in the Mimika district and the Jayawijaya mountains.

According to the report, crops in the central highlands have been destroyed by the six-month drought. Food reserves, 80% of which consisted of yams, have now been exhausted and the next harvest is not expected until June or July. Those hardest hit by malnutrition and malaria are the people who fled the conflict areas last year for the lower-lying forests and valleys. In two of the villages visited, 20% of the population has died since October. In others, 55 % of all infants are suffering from severe malnutrition and 95% of the villagers have malaria. According to the team, "the fate of thousands of people will be decided in the next two months". The survey is to continue in the Baliem valley, where, according to Indonesian sources, more than 250,000 people are at risk. To alleviate the crisis, the ICRC plans to provide the affected population with emergency food rations over the next six months. So far, it has only been able to distribute some rice and a few medicines to about 2,500 people in the nine villages already visited. A consignment of tonnes of high-protein biscuits donated by the Norwegian government arrived at the beginning of the week and two helicopters (one light and one heavy) are now available for use. Logistical problems and fund-raising are major concerns for the organizers of this operation: a light helicopter costs 25,000 US dollars per month to run, and few governments have so far agreed to help finance humanitarian work in Irian Jaya. Meanwhile, meteorologists have predicted that El Nino will continue to wreak havoc in the region until mid-1998."--Further information: Sri R. Wahyu Endah, ICRC Djakarta, tel.: ++6221 720 7252 and Joerg Stoeklin, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++4122 730 2906.

16 JANUARY 1998. INDONESIA: DISEASE (JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS) "Presumptive JE infection was demonstrated serologically by Dr. Roy Hall and Cheryl Johansen at the University of Queensland, and this diagnosis was confirmed by Dr. Annette Broom at the University of Western Australia and Mrs. Debbie Phillips at Queensland Health Scientific Services.

Serological studies using a competitive ELISA have been carried out on sera collected from a number of different sites in south-western Papua New Guinea by Cheryl Johansen and Dr. Hall at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and by Wayne Melrose at James Cook University in Townsville. They found that JE virus has been active in the Daru area of Western Province since at least 1989 with 21% of sera found to be antibody positive. An increasing antibody positivity has also been observed in the Upper Fly region, rising from 8% in 1990-1991 to 24% in 1993, and JE antibody positive sera have been observed in Kareema region of Gulf Province and Lake Kutubu in Southern Highlands Province. However no JE virus activity has been observed in northern or eastern PNG, although antibodies to Murray Valley encephalitis and Kunjin viruses have been found in sera collected in these areas.

Most pig sera collected from Western Province by Dr. Jack Shield in 1995-96 were also seropositive for JE virus. The present increased JE virus activity and the two human cases in the Upper Fly region has occurred during a period of extreme drought. I understand that there has been increased mosquito breeding in the area as streams and rivers dry to form pools of stagnant water, and the flushing action of running streams ceases. I would assume that these reduced areas of water may also concentrate water birds and feral animals, allowing a greater potential for arboviral transmission."--John Mackenzie < in the Indonesian Nature Conservation List <


Chanaral Island, 26o-32oS 72oW: We used satellite telemetry on 5 Humboldt penguins from Isla Pan de Azucar (26oS, 72oW) since November 1997 in an ongoing experiment to determine foraging activities and at sea distribution. All equipped birds were breeders in November, but judging from the duration and extent of their foraging trips, had given up breeding in early December 1997. This may be related to high sea water temperatures, which currently are ca. 3oC above normal in that area. Two birds are still being tracked and have moved South to about 32oS, which corresponds to a distance of 600 km from their breeding island.

While our earlier data suggested that Humboldt penguins from Isla Pan de Azucar migrate during the winter months, the new results provide support to our hypothesis that these birds are definitely not sedentary, but able to react to unfavourable environmental conditions by migration.

We also investigated Humboldt penguins at their most southerly known breeding location, Islotes Punihuil (42oS) using VHF-telemetry and TDRs. So far, we found that foraging range and at sea activities are similar to those of northern birds during non-ENSO years. Again, all equipped penguins were breeders in November 1997, but as opposed to Isla Pan de Azucar birds, are doing well and raising healthy chicks up to the present. According to NOAA, sea water temperatures at 42oS are near normal."--Boris Culik and Janos Hennicke <


Xinhua reports that Phillipine agriculture grew by 3 percent in 1997, despite fears in 1997 that the ENSO event would have a major effect .



"During the first half of December 1997 and the second week of January 1998, I traveled along 370 Km of coastline in southern Peru, from Punta Atico to Morro Sama. The trip was supported by IMARPE (Instituto del Mar del Peru) to carry out the annual census of the population of South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis). Besides counting and sighting fur seals, my friend biologist Alberto Bertolero and I took rough notes about weather, fishing, and the number, mortality and breeding status of seabirds. Notes about birds were taken in the morning (0600-0900). Counts were carried out from the mainland and when this was not possible they were made from a boat.

Also, from the last week of December onwards I evaluated the effect of the ongoing El Nino on Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) and other seabirds at Punta San Juan, Peru. The data at Punta San Juan were also collected by my friends biologists Rosana Paredes (Humboldt penguins and Band-tailed gulls) and Gabriella Battistini (Inca terns).

Location of places mentioned in the text are listed below. I briefly summarize what we have seen over the last few weeks:

WEATHER: At present, light but persistent rains are occurring sporadically in Tacna, Ilo, Atico and Chala. Air temperatures increased up to 33oC in Ilo and Tacna in Jan 5. SST (sea surface temperature) was 22-23oC, above 6-7oC the average. Between Atico and Chala I could see huge areas (about 100 of coastline) covered by small vegetation, which were absent in the last 10 years. Farmers from the Andes and Lima are bringing thousands of cows and goats to this areas for grazing. Sea was very rough during the first week of December and January, but without economic consequences. At Punta San Juan, the SST anomaly arose up to 7oC (22-23oC) the first week of January.

FISHERIES: No fishmeal factory in the south was processing anchovies in December and January because these fish were not available to the purse-seine fishery. In Jan 4 I counted 100-120 purse-seine boats in the port of Ilo. Only five departed the night before my arrival (Jan 5) and came back empty. In almost all artisanal fishing ports in the south, the landings of the fish El Dorado , Perico or Common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) was high. In some localities, such as Ilo, fishermen spend only a few hours to capture them, showing that these fish are inshore.

SEABIRDS 1) Guanay cormorants or guanayes (Phalacrocorax boungainvilli) ATICO-MORRO SAMA We estimated only between 5000 to 6000 guanay cormorants. Although we could not reach La Chira (a guano bird headland), the keeper told us that around 1 Ha of birds (about 150 000) were present since the first week of December. In all these areas cormorants were not breeding. Between Camana and Quilca, we found about 1000-1500 guanayes resting in a vertical cliff, which had been empty in past years. In this area we counted between 30 to 40 dead cormorants along 500 m. PUNTA SAN JUAN A small group of guanayes (less than 100) began to breed in October 1997, but eggs were deserted in November. The maximum number of guanayes seen was 75 000 birds between October and December. On Jan 15 we counted only 300-500 cormorants. In Oct-Nov 1996 the population reached 400 000-450 000 birds, with 20 000-30 000 active nests. By analyzing pellets we could determine that guanayes are currently feeding inshore on fish living in rocky substrate instead of their traditional food (pelagic schooling fish) such as anchovies (Engraulis ringens), silversides (Odonthestes regia) and 'camotillos' (Normanicthys crockeri). 2) Peruvian boobies or piqueros (Sula variegata) ATICO-MORRO SAMA Boobies were more dispersed than cormorants. We estimated between 55 000 and 60 000, with the highest number in Punta Coles (50 000-60 000 birds) on Dec 5. However, when I came back to this headland on Jan 4, there were only 1000-1500 birds. Boobies were not seen nesting. We saw very thin birds and many carcasses on beaches everywhere. PUNTA SAN JUAN The number of boobies have decreased from 1500 in Oct-Nov to near 300 birds in Jan 4. The population increased slightly on Jan 15 to 1500-2000 birds. They were not seen nesting. Over the last 6 years we have seen a small islet in front of the headland, which was always full of boobies nesting between Oct-Feb. Now this islet is empty. Starving birds and hundreds of carcasses are found within the reserve. 3) Blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxi) PUNTA SAN JUAN-MORRO SAMA We found a group of 10-15 adults in Punta Atico and 10 birds (between adults and juveniles) at Punta San Juan. The birds found in Atico had extended their normal post-breeding dispersal range more than 1300-1400 Km south (in Peru they breed in Isla Lobos de Tierra). 4) Inca terns (Larosterna inca) PUNTA ATICO-MORRO SAMA Terns were difficult to count. In December we saw flocks of some thousands (no more than 4000) mainly in Cocotea and Islay. Few birds (less than 200) were found in Punta Coles, Punta Atico and Punta San Juan. Probably the whole population count did not exceed 10 000 birds. PUNTA SAN JUAN Inca terns began to breed in the last week of September, but they deserted their eggs and small chicks in October and November. In December only a few terns were seen resting in cliffs. In January we counted about 50 terns, and some of them were starving on beaches and easily preyed upon by Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura jota) and Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus). 5) Peruvian pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis thagus) PUNTA-SAN JUAN MORRO SAMA Pelicans were uncommon. The largest group of pelicans counted was in Cocotea with only 300 birds. In other sites they were almost absent. However, they were common in fishing terminals. In the fishing port of Ilo, about 100 pelicans were scavenging on discarded fish. In ports and markets of Lima they are also common. They were not breeding and we estimated a maximum population of 500 birds. 6) Peruvian gulls (Larus belcheri) MAINLY PUNTA SAN JUAN These gulls are always common along the coast of Peru. They were breeding in Punta Coles, Punta Atico and Punta San Juan. By December they were incubating eggs. During the first week of January we saw some small chicks and eggs.

Total breeding failure was found at Punta San Juan in January. Egg laying was delayed one week. Chicks hatched from the last week of December, but all died few days after, due to starvation. Flocks of some hundreds were seen eating dead sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea lion feces, but this is a normal foraging behavior. 7) Kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus) PUNTA COLES They were breeding in this guano-bird reserve, which is the only continental colony that I know in the southern coast of Peru (there is another in La Vieja island). In December we found a couple of nests with eggs and in January we found other nests with eggs and small chicks. At Punta San Juan, they were seen feeding mainly on sea lions carcasses. 8) Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) PUNTA SAN JUAN Penguins began to breed in April 1997. In June, when SST anomalies rose 4&deg;C, chicks increased weight at a lower rate and duration of foraging trips of adults was longer than in other years. In September, pairs began to breed for a second time, which is their normal breeding strategy, but a heavy rain flooded their nests and eggs were lost (mainly those nesting in open-scrapes). Penguins re-laid a third clutch during the first week of October and eggs hatched at the middle of November. They increased weight normally until the end of December, when most of the adults began the annual molt.

All nests with chicks were deserted during the first week of January and are currently dying of starvation (we estimated around 300-350 dead chicks between 1-15 Jan). At present all adults are molting. In Jan 4 we counted 636 molting adults within Punta San Juan. Coppelia Hays counted about 1000 in January 1983. In April 1997 we counted 1800 breeding pairs and about 1000 non-breeders. The low number in January 98 may be a normal trend as many birds are foraging at sea before coming ashore to molt. Also, adults may be migrating to other places (probably to Chile), or they could be dying of starvation.

I did not see high numbers or migration waves of penguins south to Punta San Juan. A group of about 300 penguins were counted at Hornillos and another 100 birds in Cocotea in Dec 97, but in Dec 96 I counted similar numbers. Almost 50% of the 400 penguins counted in Dec 97 were juveniles (1 year old), a surprising number when we saw only 2 at Punta San Juan. Dead penguins on beaches were uncommon. I could not see one over the last three months in the southern coast. So, we think that the low numbers of penguins found at Punta San Juan are due to a high proportion of penguins foraging at sea. Numbers may increase in the next few weeks. The impact of the ongoing El Nino on adult penguins will be seen in March and April when the molt is over and penguins will come ashore to breed." Lobo de Tierra 06&ordm;28'S, 80&ordm;50'W Lima 12&ordm;11'S, 77&ordm;02'W Punta San Juan 15&ordm;22'S, 75&ordm;12'W Chala 15&ordm;49'S, 74&ordm;51'W Atico 16&ordm;14'S, 73&ordm;41'W La Chira 16&ordm;29'S, 73&ordm;02''W Quilca 16&ordm;42'S, 73&ordm;26'W Hornillos 16&ordm;52'S, 72&ordm;17'W Islay 17&ordm;00'S, 71&ordm;31'W Cocotea 70 south to Islay Punta Coles 17&ordm;42'S, 71&ordm;22'W Ilo 10 km north to Punta Coles Morro Sama 18&ordm;00'S, 70&ordm;53'W Tacna 70 km south-east to Morro Sama" --Carlos B. Zavalaga <



Military operations against insurgent movements are complicating relief operations in the Irian Jaya highlands. In mid December, Indonesian TV reported 75 dead of hunger and disease in two highland villages in the area. Thousands more may be at risk. Access is restricted as troops operate against guerrillas who kidnapped foreign scientists.

22 JANUARY 1998. MALAWI: CLIMATE (FLOODS) ( and Reuters report 5,000 families homeless since October after "unusually heavy rains" blamed on El Nino. At least four people have died. Rains are expected to continue to April and flooding may occur in southern Malawi. --Reported by C. W. Gilbert, <


The EnviroNews Service reports that while there is little evidence of increased mortality, few birds are breeding. Waved albatrosses, penguins and flightless cormorants are not breeding. Sea lions and fur seals have abandoned their normal haulouts and are present in unusual areas. Hammerhead sharks have moved deeper in the water column and there are marked changes in fish communities. Red algae is becoming rarer, which may affect the marine iguanas which feed on them. Coral bleaching is occurring.-- EnviroLink News Service <


Andrew Perrin in The Australian, Northern Territory News, Reuters, and correspondents report that the economic disaster in Indonesia may translate into human disaster in East Timor, as the central government struggles to maintain itself, ignoring rapidly deteriorating conditions in East Timor. The Indonesian army presence in East Timor is estimated at U.S. $500 million/year, a large amount for the country's troubled economy while economically the area contributes less than 1% of Indonesia's GDP. Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta has appealed for help from Australia and the international community.

Famine is already occurring at Atauro Island in its population of 7,000 and may occur in the next few months along the entire north cast of East Timor. The local population has already eaten their seed stock. Rice prices have risen 33%, above the level affordable to many inhabitants. --some details from Andrew McNaughton <


Kafil Yamin of InterPress Service reports that recent rains, while breaking the drought, have cut roads for trucks bringing potable water. In other areas such as East Kalimantan, Lampung, and Irian Jaya, conditions remain very dry.

25 JANUARY 1998. PANAMA: CLIMATE & FISHERY " I live in Guatemala and have just returned from a trip to Panama. Although I can't vouch for the information, I was told about two possible effects of El Nino. The first was an effect on fishing. According to the captain of the fishing boat I was on, the January fishing tournament in Panama was a disaster this year, compared to last year. The largest marlin caught last year weighted 1,200 pounds, he said. In 1998, the largest weighed only 600 pounds, and many of the 25 boats in the tournament came back empty-handed. The second observation was from a tour guide in Lake Gatun, who said the water level in the lake (which feeds the Atlantic locks of the Panama Canal, and generates hydroelectric energy for the country)was already as low as it usually is at the end of the dry season, still come months away, and electricity rationing is being considered."--Bill Latham <


The Coral List reports " Coral Cay Conservation is currently initiating a major series of baseline surveys in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Initial observations have reported significant coral bleaching, reaching 60-70% at some depths. Interestingly the water is much colder than normal (approximately 23 degrees) and there are also extensive plankton blooms. If anyone else has similar observations from this area I would be keen to hear about them. I would also appreciate comments on whether these oceanographic conditions are typical for the area at this time of year or perhaps linked to El Nino.

I hope to post more detailed data on the extent of coral bleaching over the next few months."Silvia Izquierdo --Alastair Harborne <;


"Heavy rains continue in northern Peru in the Departments of Tumbes and Piura. Rains are now occurring throughout the western slope of the Andes, with numerous landslides, some causing heavy damage. Dry river beds are now carrying water. In Lima temperatures have now reached 32 degrees celsius, normal is around 28. February is expected to have more rains and higher temperatures. About five cases of cholera have been registered in the mountains near Ayabaca (Piura) and a few others in the environs. The situation is being controlled, but other isolated cases in the country are known."

"January 25 from El Comercio newspaper. During the week landslides in the Rimac valley were cleared and traffic restored. Unfortunately fruits and vegetables for Lima rotted. Last night, new landslides in the Rimac valley again blocked traffic. The río Ica broke its banks and affected 4000 families, destroying 300 adobe houses, 3500 houses and 6000 hectares of crops were flooded. The río Pisco increased its flow dramatically coming over a bridge and also flooded agricultural areas. Also reported were heavy rains and thunderstorms in Arequipa which interrupted electricity for practically the whole city. This yesterday I learned that the río Moquegua, normally dry at its mouth washed away a bridge. The río Ocumba in extreme southwestern Peru is running high. Several landslides in the high parts of the Department of Tacna. Also reported very high number of sea lions washed ashore in southern Peru. On TV saw that heavy rains and flooding continued in coastal northern Peru."-- Manuel Plenge


I am currently researching the impacts of the ENSO impacts on the fisheries in the San Francisco Bay Area, and near shore Pacific waters. Any, any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

I am having trouble finding any information relating to commercially sought species in the area. Much of the information relates to pinipeds, birds, and presence of unusual species outside of their normal ranges. Virtually no information can be found on the absence, or reduction of commercial species. NMFS site has been unproductive.

Incidentally, the herring season has been a bust for the fleet. Catches and roe counts are way down. Specifically interested in impacts on Dungenous Crab, Herring, Salmon, Urchins, local ground fish species.--Scott <


"The Kenya News Agency reported on Sunday that Kenyan sheep farmers could lose a third of their stock following an outbreak of blue tongue. The agency said farmers in the Kajiado and Laikipia districts of the Rift Valley province are already reported to have lost 10 per cent of their sheep because of the viral blue tongue disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. Blue tongue disease was last reported in Kenya in 1905.

Vaccines have been ordered from South Africa, where the disease is common. Farmers have also been advised to move their sheep away from marshy or waterlogged areas which are heavily infested with mosquitoes. Large areas of Kenya have been flooded by torrential rains in recent months from El Nino." -- Martin Hugh-Jones < on ProMED-mail <


The Associated Press reports that population explosions of orange-and-black beetles Paederus crebinpunctatis and Paederus sabaeus caused by El Nino rains have become a problem in Kenya in Nairobi and parts of the Rift Valley. Crushing the insects releases a a toxin that burns and itches and may cause temporary blindness if it reaches the face.


John Aglionby of The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Indonesian fires have gained new life, threatening to surpass last year's damage of 2 million hectares burnt and dense smog throughout southeast Asia. The weather pattern is following that of 1982-1983,with "fires followed by a short wet season and then more fires", however, this event could be worse because fires are starting earlier. Hundreds of fires are visible by satellite in East Kalimantan, Borneo, and " more than 200" in Sumatra.

The current economic crisis is restricting Indonesia's ability to respond.


Manoah Esipisu of Reuters reports that Kenya will have a maize shortfall of seven million bags (90 kg) because of El Nino, according to Agriculture Minister Musalia Mudavadi. Production will be 22.7 million bags of maize and 3.0 million bags for the two rainy seasons. The second (shorter) rainy season crop was especially affected. Sugar, rice and wheat production were also only half of local needs. Damage to agricultural infrastructure was approximately $1.29 million, with 300,000 farming families affected by floods and by livestock disease. Coffee production will also be down. Tourism income is already down because of earlier unrest and more recent floods and cholera outbreaks (supplemented from private sources).


"Although Rift Valley fever has been confirmed in the current outbreak affecting humans and livestock in Kenya and Somalia, it is evident that other causes have contributed to the high rate of haemorrhagic symptoms and deaths among both humans and animals. Laboratory investigations at the WHO Collaborating Centres at Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi, National Institute for Virology in Johannesburg and at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have tested specimens from Kenya and Somalia for a wide range of infectious agents but so far the only clear diagnosis is RVF which has been confirmed by virus isolation or implicated through the demonstration of specific IgM antibodies in a 30-40% of samples tested.

Preliminary epidemiological studies have shown that the flooded areas of north-eastern Kenya are most likely to have suffered mainly from Rift Valley fever and that the virus may have reached the area some time in November-December 1997. The disease is widespread but presenting with typical RVF symptoms which are in general mild in humans but causing abortions in sheep, goats and camels. Animal vaccination, which would be the most efficient control measure for RVF, is not considered feasible under the current conditions in the affected areas. Severe haemorrhagic disease is not common for RVF and the absence of RVF virus antibody in about two-third of viral haemorrhagic fever cases tested in the laboratory is a further indication that another infectious or toxic agent is involved. Contrary to the RVF outbreak [as a whole], the severe cases of haemorrhagic illness have occurred in localized clusters. Unfortunately, these clusters have been reported in remote flooded areas in the northeast near the border with Somalia which are very difficult to reach. WHO and the Task Force in Nairobi are now establishing a base in Garissa for further investigations of the cases of haemorrhagic fever.

The international team coordinated by WHO will include members from Epiet, Paris, Epicentre of Medecins Sans Frontieres, the National Institute for Virology in Johannesburg, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, FortDetrick. The team will be equipped with a locally rented helicopter to access areas otherwise difficult to reach. The establishment of the team has been made possible thanks to financial support of WHO and the Department for International Development, United Kingdom."--Martin Hugh-Jones < ON ProMED-mail <


Zephyrhills, Pasco County, Total Rainfall for DEC 1997 16.5" Total rain from Sept. 1997 to Dec. 1994 34". One frost so far as of Jan/28/98. Very mild.--Bruce Myers <


Seabird breeding at the Houtman Abrolhos archipelago, 60km off the mid-west coast of Western Australia, has been disrupted markedly during the austral summer. A previous bulletin to this site, posted in December, discussed the delayed breeding of several species and the low number of breeding attempts by Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. I have just returned from my field sites at the Houtman Abrolhos on 26 January. The situation now is that inshore species such as Crested Terns, Caspian Terns, Fairy Terns Sterna nereis, Pacific Gulls and Silver Gulls are managing to fledge young. However, offshore foragers have been affected thus Lesser Noddies- are fledging young but breeding attempts were delayed and numbers are down. Brown Noddies-very few laying attempts and no young fledged at a time when runners and fledglings would be the norm. Sooty Terns-very few laying attempts, no runners. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters-no eggs or nestlings found but birds present on surface at night and in 5% of burrows by day. Roseate Terns-breeding commenced in December as usual but no signs of any fledglings around roosts, and some evidence of sites being abandoned during incubation.

Large numbers of adults continue to roost at their breeding sites and all would appear normal apart from the lack of eggs and young. Considering that in previous years terns would be fledging young and shearwater burrows would contain 20d young it seems unlikely that any successful attempts by shearwaters, Sooty Terns or Brown Noddies will be completed before adults begin to depart during March/April.--Christopher Surman <

29 JANUARY 1998. NEW ZEALAND: MARINE MAMMAL (MORTALITY) The New Zealand Press Association reports that up to 80% of the annual production of hooker sealion pups has been lost in the Auckland Islands, 320km south of Stewart Island. The total population is only 15,000. The cause of the mortality is unknown. Animals appeared healthy.


"A serious mass mortality event is currently sweeping through the two main breeding colonies of the New Zealand (Hooker's) sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), with 30-40% of this year's pups already dead, and indications of increasing mortalities amongst adult females.

The New Zealand sea lion is found only in New Zealand waters and is one of the world's rarest seal species. In 1997, based on pup production estimates, the population was estimated at between 11,000 and 15,000 animals. Once distributed throughout New Zealand, from the tip of the North Island to Campbell Island, deep in the subantarctic, the species was taken to the brink of extinction by commercial sealers of the early nineteenth century.

The major concern in recent times has been the impact of accidental catches in the trawl fishery for squid around the Auckland Islands, which is one of New Zealand's most important deepwater fisheries. For each of the past four years Ministers of Conservation and Fisheries have set a catch limit for sea lions. The squid fishery was closed early last year, because the sea lion catch limit was exceeded.

Over the past ten years, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has been monitoring the main breeding colonies of Dundas and Enderby Island, part of the Auckland Islands group located some 420km south of New Zealand's South Island. These two colonies (which collectively occupy an area roughly the size of six football pitches) account for some 95% of the sea lion breeding population. Annual pup production in recent years has been approximately 2,500 animals. Dundas Island is responsible for 80% of all pup production , but is surrounded by rocky reefs and is much harder to access than Enderby, where DOC has a research station.

DOC scientists arrived at Enderby Island in mid-January, and everything seemed to be normal. However, when weather conditions permitted a visit to Dundas on 26 January, the team discovered some 700 recently-dead pups. Symptoms included puffy eyes, ulcerated anuses and vaginas and lesions on the head. Dying pups often showed spasms and paralysis. Fewer adults than usual were on the beach, but at that time there were no signs that the older animals had been affected. Returning to Enderby, the team soon found that pups were beginning to die there also. In addition, adult females started showing signs of paralysis. Afflicted animals also had small raised lesions on the belly and neck. Post-mortems have shown pus-filled swellings around the salivary gland in the neck. The most recent estimate on the day of this posting is that 111 pups have died on Enderby, and a further 150 are unaccounted for. 20% of the adult females on the breeding beach are dead or afflicted with lesions or paralysis. The numbers of adult females on the beach are considerably lower than normal. An unknown number of females (and males) may have died at sea, and some pups are consequently starving to death.

Samples from autopsied pups and females and six pup carcasses were flown back to the mainland by helicopter on 29 January. Pathologists from Massey University Cetacean Investigation Centre in Palmerston North will begin detailed examinations of the samples on Monday 1 February.

Further updates will be posted with MARMAM on a weekly basis."--Mike Donoghue < on MARMAM <marmamed@UVic.CA


Reuters reports around 30 dead at Chocos following a major landslide that buried 100 homes in this town of 2,000 in the southern Andes on Wednesday. Peruvian troops rescued of dozen of children orphaned by a landslide in Chocos, while thousands of people awaited rescue on their rooftops following flooding of the town of Ica. Extensive landslides have hindered road transportation and agricultural production is reduced because of large-scale inundations.


Stephanie Nebehay of Reuters reports that World Meteorological Office models suggest that ENSO is expected to fade after May, only to be followed by La Nina, a cold weather version of ENSO, with heavy rains possible in Asian countries, just recovering from the recent ENSO drought. However, not all climate models predict La Nina conditions.

Currently the main warm-water mass for ENSO is down to 40% of its November size, but it is still powerful enough to maintain drier conditions over "Indonesia, eastern Australia, northern South America and southern Africa" . Fire remains a threat to Australians and typhoons to South Pacific islands, while the west coast of Latin America should remain moist. In the U.S. California and the south will get more rainfall while the north will remain warmer.


Reuters reports that the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center believes that damage from the current ENSO event will exceed hat of the 1983 event. The regional economic crisis is hindering governmental response to ENSO effects such as drought. ENSO itself is also contributing to the regional recession.


Reuters reports that a warmer than normal ENSO winter has still yielded enough snow for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan; however, fog may be a problem on the upper part of the men's downhill course.


Xinhua reports that Ugandan weather experts are urging farmers to prepare for planting, in the belief that a weakening ENSO will not effect farming , but that drier La Nina conditions may affect agricultural activity in the second half of 1998. Coffee production is already down almost 60% because of heavy rains, reducing the country's export capacity.


CNN tonight reports that a disease of unknown origin, linked to ENS conditions, has killed 14 Peruvians so far this year in the cities of Talara, Trujillo and Chimbote. Symptoms include fever, coughing and diarrhea for up to three weeks. The total ENSO death toll in Peru so far is 80.


So far, according to El Comercio of Lima, there has been little damage to Peru's archeological treasures, in contrast to the devastation that occurred during the 1983 ENSO event. Peru has invested $1.5 million (U.S.) since June 1997, based on ENSO predictions, to protect 24 sites.


El Comercio of Lima today reported that few fishermen in Northern Peru are even bothering t leave port because of the ENSO-induced scarcity of their normal catch, fish for human consumption. The remaining fishery is limited to lobster, "pez perico" (parrot fish?), blue shark and dorado. Herring, mullet and other inshore fish have virtually disappeared.


Reuters reported that an ENSO-generated storm, the worst of the winter brought heavy rains, flooding and mudslides in northern California, with flood warnings for the Russian and Napa rivers. Rain are high winds are expected to continue through 3 February. San Francisco, already wet with a near-record January rainfall of 12.24 inches, faces an equally wet February, with a second storm due Thursday.


SEABIRD REPORT 1997/98 "GENTOO PENGUIN (Pygoscelis papua) Studies by the Environmental Research Unit indicate that Gentoo numbers increased by 18% since 1996/97, giving a current Falklands population of around 80,700 pairs. This represents a welcome recovery following a decline from around 100,000 pairs during the 1980s, to 65,000 pairs in 1995/96. During 1997/98 a mean of 0.92 chicks per nest were reared, which is slightly above average.

ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN (Eudyptes c.chrysocome) Rockhopper numbers increased by 11%, giving a current Falklands population of around 330,000 pairs. This still represents a serious decline from a previous population of over 3,000,000 pairs. Most of this decline occurred during the 1980s, with mass mortality of adults from starvation. During 1997/98 a mean of 0.70 chicks per nest were recorded, which is slightly below average.

MAGELLANIC PENGUIN (Spheniscus magellanicus) Magellanic Penguin numbers increased by 7%, but this still represents an overall population decline to around half its 1980s level. During 1997/98 a mean of 1.01 chicks per nest were reared, which is slightly above average.

BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS (Diomedea melanophris) Albatross numbers increased by 2%, giving a current Falklands population of around 550,000 pairs. Early indications are that breeding success has been high during 1997/98 (< 0.6 chicks per nest).

KING CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax atriceps albiventer) King Cormorant numbers increased by 1%. During 1997/98 a mean of 1.74 chicks per nest were reared, which is well above average.

ROCK CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax magellanicus) Rock Cormorant numbers decreased by 2%. During 1997/98 a mean of 1.60 chicks per nest were reared, which is slightly below average.

SUMMARY There has been no obvious effect on seabird populations from El Nino in the Falkland Islands. The 1980s and early 1990s saw dramatic population declines amongst Falkland penguin populations, with very low breeding success and juvenile survival rates. These declines were not evident across the water in Chile. The cause was believed to be low food availability around the Falklands, possibly related to commercial fishing. This trend has reversed since 1993/94, with high numbers of chicks now being raised by all species, and higher juvenile survival. This has allowed Gentoo populations to recover rapidly, but Rockhoppers will need decades to recover from their population crash. Unlike other species, the Magellanic Penguin has continued to decline up until this season, and breeding success for the Falkland population is consistently lower than for similar sites studied by the Environmental Research Unit in Chile."--Mike Bingham <


Environmental News Network reports that despite the warmest year on record and El Nino, the December troposphere temperature was the coldest ever reported in the layer of the atmosphere between 17 km to 22 km, according to Dr. Roy Spencer of NASA and Dr. John Christy of the Global Hydrology and Climate Center of the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The cooing trend has extended for 15 years --ENN <


I thought you might like to know that the temperatures at GAK1 (oceanographic buoy off Seward, Alaska) in January 1998 are unusually warm at depths greater than 100m. We are seeing temps about 1.5C higher than normals in the 120-200m layer.-- Tom Weingartner <


"Health officials have reported that a fever of uncertain etiology has killed 14 people in Peru this year. The illness, which doctors believe may be caused by a virus, has spread along Peru's northern coast, where torrential rains attributed to El Nino have flooded shantytowns and disrupted water supplies. Health officials say the resulting destruction and pooled water provides fertile ground for insect breeding and the spread of disease.

The 14 children and adults who have died from the fever were in the cities of Talara, Trujillo and Chimbote, said Health Ministry spokesman Jose Anicama. Before dying, victims experience high fever, coughing and diarrhea for up to three weeks, said Dr. Marcial Anaya of the state hospital in Chimbote, 225 miles northwest of Lima."

"[ProMED-mail would appreciate additional information about this outbreak. Perhaps our Peruvian subscribers can help us with a more definitive report."-- Martin Hugh-Jones < on ProMED-mail <


Associated Press reports that cold temperatures, hail and even snow occurred as a cold front swept through Mexico, with hail falling in Cancun. Snow fell in ten Mexican states; Hidalgo receiving its first snow in twenty years, while high winds left 800 homeless in Chiapas as it shredded their houses. Strong winds associated with the front killed two in Mexico and one in Guatemala, shutting the Havana airport and damaging crops. The winds in Cuba were the strongest recorded for February since 1918. A second front today was bringing heavy rains to Baja California.


"Effects of El Nino on central California fisheries or other California fisheries will perhaps be clearer when landing and effort data have been collected and processed. Currently, indirect effects like fish target switching, increased sea lion predation, and adverse sea conditions may be affecting fisheries more than a decline in catches in past months. Also, the initial effects will mostly be seen in geographic shifts in distribution since effects of low food supplies are likely to have a more delayed effect. To date it seems the only documented effects for commercial fisheries have been noted in the albacore fishery (positive-fish inshore becoming more accessible to fishermen with a protracted season), Monterey salmon (negative, less fish and re-targeting to albacore), squid (not rising to fishermen's lights and moving to deeper water), and rockfish production down (negative-catches first-year juveniles on annual research survey last year lowest on record).Also, in the recreational fishery, record catches (since the 1940s) of sportfish were made last year between Morro Bay and the Mexican border (yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, dorado), as reported in the L.A. Times. Albacore fishing usually peters out in Oct-Nov, but catches were still being made off More Bay in January. Over 3000 yellowtail were landed in December off Dana Point, catches previously unheard of. If I hear of more info, will pass on.--Susan Smith <


Reuters reports that the worst storms in five years left 220,000 people without electric power after tornadoes, high winds gusting to 166 kph and floods ripped through most of Florida, killing one person. Three to seven inches of rain fell in south Florida. The storm killed four people in Cuba.


CNN reports four dead and thousands evacuated after an El Nino-generated winter storm hit most of California, with reports comparing it to a typhoon. Interstates were shut and heavy surf to 40 feet eroded beaches. Up to 13 inches of rain fell in Santa Barbara. Winds of up to 80 mph caused devastation. The Pajaro River broke through a levee, forcing many in the town of the same name to evacuate and flooding farmland. One hundred homes were flooded and residents evacuated in Willows and Guerneville. In Napa Valley, over 5,000 acres of vineyards was flooded. In Ventura County, crop damage was estimated at $ 5 million.Over 144,000 customers in Northern California lost power. Storms are expected to continue into March, if not April.

On early 5 February, we received this report from Half Moon Bay: "The rains and wind were almost unbelievable Monday. Tuesday, there was flooding in areas where one doesn't expect it -- the major freeways. All of them, at least on the Peninsula, had stretches closed. I think it was widespread all over the Bay Area. I saw on TV (2/4) that Big Sur was isolated as a couple (or more) of stretches of Highway 1 had simply washed away and weren't there any more. People (probably mostly tourists) were brought out of Big Sur by helicopter. One friend who works for a computer company in Menlo Park said he couldn't get out of the parking lot exits (two) because traffic was completely stalled outside of the lots. The major roads nearby were impassible, on Tuesday. This happened after he arrived at work. In a subsequent conversation, he was only able to get home (San Jose) by taking a bridge over the San Francisco Bay and going home through the East Bay roads rather than the Peninsula. For a time, there was no way to get to San Francisco or Santa Cruz from here (Half Moon Bay) as Highway 1 was closed to the north at Devil's Slide and to the south at Davenport. The road out of here to the east (Highway 92) was reported to have only one lane open. Later I saw a report in the San Mateo County Times that Highway 92 had been closed. It links Half Moon Bay with the rest of the county. The only other road out of here (a minor highway) was also closed. My power flickered all day Monday and I stayed off the computer. It would get lost and them come back on, too. On Monday, early reports predicted gusts to 60 mph/ but the highest clocked in the Bay Area was 80 mph. here on the Coast.

We're expecting more of the same -- 3 more storms in the next couple or three days. Monday's was reported to be slow moving. These others will pass more quickly. It's raining now, early Thurs. morn. 1/5."--C. W. Gilbert <


David Fox of Reuters reports El Nino's rain has restored rain to Lake Nakuru , bring back almost 1.5 million lesser and greater flamingos to the saline lake.


Department of Conservation Press Release 4 February 1998 "More Sea Lion Deaths a Concern: This is the first in a series of written updates on the New Zealand sea lion mass mortality event. The updates will be issued by the Department of Conservation on a regular basis as new information comes to hand, and will also be available on its website, <http//

The number of dead sea lion pups and adults found on sub-antarctic islands is increasing, the Department of Conservation reports.

Reporting from the Auckland Islands, DOC-contracted vet Nick Gales said total sea lion pup mortality was now 45 percent, or 1353 pups, out of a total pup population of 3033 pups at the Auckland Islands group. While the pup deaths on Figure of Eight Island was above normal, Dr Gales had not observed any symptoms of the disease.


Total pups born.

No. dead pups.

% mortality





Dundas Island




Sandy Bay (Enderby Island)




Figure of Eight Island




South East Point (Enderby Island)









At Davies Point on Campbell Island, 24 dead pups had been found and two of six adult females there appeared to have symptoms.

About 95 percent of the sea lions breed on two small islands, Dundas and Enderby, which are part of the Auckland Islands group.

DOC marine mammal expert Mike Donoghue said the deaths of adult sea lions, especially the females or cows, was a greater concern as it meant the remaining sea lion pups will die from starvation if their mothers did not return with food for them, in addition to losing potentially pregnant females. Cows usually left their pups while they foraged for food for up to three to five days, so it was difficult to know when or if the mothers would return.

Mr. Donoghue said an unknown number of adults might have died at sea so the exact extent of adult mortality might never be known. Update figures on the estimate of dead adults were expected tomorrow morning.

Dr Gales fitted seven Enderby Island cows with satellite tags about two weeks ago but only three had returned, suggesting the remaining four cows had died. Seven sea lion pups were also tagged at the same time, and four pups had since died.

Minister of Conservation Nick Smith said the latest information on adult sea lion deaths was tragic. "The New Zealand sea lion had already been pushed to the brink of extinction in the early 19th century and we were beginning to have success with small increases in the population over the last few years. The news about adults dying is very sad and we will need to keep a close eye on the remaining animals over the coming days and weeks." Dr. Smith said a decision to review the sea lion bycatch from the squid fishery, will be made when further information on the cause of the deaths is known later in the month.

Post-mortem examinations of dead sea lion pups and other samples brought back from the Auckland Islands were being conducted by the Massey University Cetacean Investigation Centre in Palmerston North, in conjunction with MAF. No results were expected immediately, and DOC would release final results when they were received.

Mr Donoghue said the three most likely possible causes of the deaths were a virus, a bacterium or a biotoxin, although it could be weeks before any definite results were available.

New Zealand sea lions, previously known as Hooker's sea lions, are one of the world's rarest sea lion. Classified as threatened, the estimated population is between 11,000 and 15,000 and they are confined to the southern waters of New Zealand. They have been legally protected since late last century and are New Zealand's only endemic seal species.

For further information, please contact Nicola Patrick, Department of Conservation Public Awareness Unit on 04-4713117 or 025-571503.

[And from various newspaper sources:] "The Massey University team has ruled out the distemper virus that killed 17,000 harbour seals in Europe 10 years ago. But after initial studies of samples from Auckland and neighbouring islands, Cetacean Investigation Centre director Per Madie said they were no closer to knowing what was killing the mammals.

Massey University scientists trying to find the cause of the deaths of hundreds of Hookers sea lions say while the present epidemic would dent the population, it was likely to recover over time. Cetacean investigation centre director Per Madie said yesterday it was "highly unlikely" the entire population would be wiped out an organism because it would wipe itself out by killing off its host. Mr. Madie said an autopsy of two pups had found a slight lung infection but that could be unrelated to the deaths. It was initially believed a virus might be responsible for the deaths but so far there had been no evidence to confirm that.

The team was now culturing tissue samples in the hope the micro-organism causing the deaths would become apparent. However, that was likely to take weeks." --Elayne Ravji < on ProMED-mail <


Andrew Quinn of Reuters reports one dead, landslides, winds to 80 kph, and flooding as five inches of rain fell in northern California, brought by a major storm generated by ENSO. Local flooding and swollen rivers led to widespread evacuations. The storm on Tuesday was to be followed by one on Wednesday, raising the possibility that damage could escalate as further rain hit the already saturated ground and swollen rivers.


Nicole Mordant of Reuters summarized weather predictions indicating that South Africa faces heat and drought until April because of El Nino. Maize crops in southern Africa's interior are at risk, but the threat of major drought damage was reduced by normal rains that fell until January.


El Comercio of Quito: "According to [news media], between Feb.2-4 there have been 5 deaths in a group of 6 patients with leptospirosis in the province of Guayas, one of the areas affected by the El Nino phenomenon. [This case fatality rate is extraordinarily high for leptospirosis, even if they were hospital cases. Would someone with direct knowledge of this cases let us know which serovar was involved and the circumstances leading up to these deaths." - Mod.MHJ]-- Abramo Ottolenghi < on ProMED-mail <


CNN reports that the same storm that damaged Florida killed 19 and brought heavy rains to Georgia and South Carolina, heavy snows to Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. Coastal areas from Georgia to New Jersey were pounded by winds of up to hurricane force, with coastal flooding from Virginia Beach to Long Island, New York. Power was out in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut.


"Having just returned from Kenya and Ethiopia, I am now in a position to provide some information. I am grateful to the Kenyan Veterinary and Medical Services, the Tanzanian Department of Livestock Development, the Ethiopian Veterinary Team, members of the WHO team in Kenya and many individuals who have provided the information on which the analysis is based.

This brief summary deals primarily with the livestock disease situation; reports from WHO will provide the human disease dimension. In addition to attempting to describe the existing situation. I have added some indication of the possible developments in the near future.

THE SITUATION IN KENYA AND SOMALIA Rift Valley Fever Historically, within the Horn of Africa, RVF epidemics have occurred in Rift Valley and Central Provinces of Kenya at prolonged intervals over 70 years or more. Northern Tanzania forms part of this disease zone but RVF occurrence in north-eastern Kenya has been a rare event in the past. The climatic factors favouring its emergence from the area in which the infection persists have been well studied and it is known that epidemics follow heavy and prolonged, often unseasonal, rainfall. Examination of remote sensing data at FAO for the past five months indicates that such conditions had prevailed in Kenya at the end of 1997. In appreciation of the risk the Kenya Veterinary Service (KVS) warned farmers of the risk and advised vaccination of high potential livestock. Livestock vaccinated in December appear to have been protected. The remote sensing data also indicate that suitable conditions for the explosive multiplication of mosquito vectors existed and persist over extensive areas of Kenya, southern Somalia, south-eastern and southern Ethiopia, eastern Uganda, southern Sudan and northern Tanzania. Reports and investigations by the KVS, backed up by laboratory confirmation, are consistent with the understanding that RVF has been occurring in December 1997 and January 1998, primarily in sheep, cattle and camels, in Central and Rift Valley Provinces and the west of Eastern Province of Kenya. The disease pattern here has been typical with fever, abortion (the predominant feature), early neonatal death, jaundice and death predominantly in young animals, and a fall in milk yield in dairy cattle. Humans have generally suffered an influenza-like disease with few complications.

From mid-December 1997, a fatal haemorrhagic fever of humans has been affecting people in Wajir, Garissa and Tana River Districts of North-eastern and Eastern Provinces of Kenya and in southern Somalia. Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus has been identified as a causal agent in this epidemic. RVF-associated human haemorrhagic disease has also been confirmed west of Magadi in Rift Valley Province of Kenya. Reports of similar human disease in the north of Somalia (Erigavo, Bosaso, Hargeisa) have not been confirmed; investigations are in progress.

At the same time the presence of RVF associated with livestock disease has been confirmed in north-eastern Kenya and southern Somalia. The abortions reported in camels and goats are consistent with the diagnosis of RVF, as could also be some reports of disease and mortality, some associated with blood stained discharges. Abortions of livestock have also been reported from southern Kenya associated temporally with confirmed RVF in humans. However, other reports of high morbidity and mortality in camels, small ruminants and cattle (the last in a limited area of Lower and Middle Juba Regions of Somalia), and the few descriptions of clinical signs, are not consistent with RVF. I am not aware of any reports of unusual livestock morbidity in the northern part of Somalia.

Other Livestock Diseases The conditions prevailing in the affected area favour the generation of large populations of mosquitoes, midges and biting flies and, therefore, an increase in incidence of many of the diseases they transmit was to be expected. Not surprisingly disease with signs typical of bluetongue is reported to be affecting improved breeds of sheep (wool sheep, Dorpers and their crosses) in Kenya away from the northeast and in northern Tanzania. As expected indigenous sheep and goats do not feature in reports.

Initial suspicions of anthrax have not been borne out by subsequent investigations, albeit limited. However, the disease could still be a component of the animal mortality reported and merits consideration, especially later as the land dries out.

Investigations in NE Kenya and Somalia have been severely hampered by flooding but investigations are proceeding. The aetiology of the livestock diseases is not fully established. The understanding presented here will certainly be amended as more information becomes available. The peak of the RVF epidemic may now have passed in Kenya and Somalia.

Superimposed on the effects of RVF, other aetiological components which are likely to be contributing are, by species and disease:

Small Ruminants

resulting from environmental factors: heavy mortality of small ruminants was associated with the flooding, peaking in NE Kenya in December. "Foot rot" appears to be widespread as a consequence of long immersion of the feet in water and mud; loss of the hooves is reported and ventral dermatitis. Secondary bacterial infection and pain preventing movement to find food probably resulted in high mortality. It is to be expected that the stress of heavy rainfall following drought conditions and combined with malnutrition predisposed them to disease conditions such as pneumonic pasteurellosis.

Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) was confirmed by the KVS to have been the cause of respiratory disease and mortality in goats near to Garissa in early January. It is endemic to the pastoral communities of northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia and is suspected to be causing significant mortality.

Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is considered by the Ethiopian Veterinary Team to be endemic in south-west Ethiopia and was confirmed to be present in 1997 in the Somali and Oromiya Regional States of Ethiopia. During 1997, clinical reports from field operatives in central and southern Somalia described a disease syndrome highly suggestive of PPR. Although clinical PPR has never been identified in Kenya, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute detected antibodies to PPR in sera collected from 1981 to 1985 in the border areas of western and northern Kenya. Consequently, the risk of PPR introduction and/or spread must be considered to be high.

Helminthosis, primarily the stomach worm causing haemonchosis, develops rapidly in suitable conditions of soil moisture and high ambient temperature. Severely anaemic sheep with bottle jaw were indeed found to have heavy burdens of Haemonchus in Kenya. An increase in incidence with high mortality could be expected to occur as pastures dry out.


Cattle have not featured highly in disease reports from the affected areas except for some reports of unusual mortality from Middle and Lower Juba Regions of Somalia in January. A clear clinical case description is lacking. In 1996 the KVS reported the presence of rinderpest in the Mandera district of North-east Province and since then the disease has been under surveillance and intensive control activities. There was an unconfirmed report of a clinical syndrome suggestive of rinderpest in Gedo Region of Somalia in March/April 1997. It is important that veterinary services, including those of NGOs, be alerted to the significance of occurrence of a clinical syndrome which could be suggestive of rinderpest. Any suspicious signs must be reported to the official veterinary service in order that prompt action can be taken.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was present in the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia, near the border with Kenya, in mid 1997. Clearly, there exists a risk of dissemination of this infection.


Many reports of high mortality in camels have been received from throughout the affected area. The abortion storms described are consistent with RVF being a cause as is some mortality in young animals. Other descriptions of morbidity and mortality are highly suggestive of camel pox (or the rarer parapox) - swelling of the labia and head, lesions on the inside (overlain by a diphtheritic membrane) and outside of the labia, blockage of the nares. A "camel respiratory disease syndrome" is a relatively new disease which spread in epidemic form in recent years from Sudan through Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti into Somalia and NE Kenya. Its cause is unknown. One group of researchers has suggested that PPR virus might be involved whilst others favour an aetiology involving mycoplasma and/or pasteurellosis because of suggestive pathology and response to antibiotic therapy. After the initial epidemic abated, a resurgence of this disease is known to have been occurring in the Afar and Somali Regional States of Ethiopia in 1997 and it was also present in Somalia. It is possible that this disease could be contributing to the morbidity; mortality can be high.

Wildlife The disease which killed some 200 Gerenuk in northern Kenya in December 1997 to January 1998 was characterised by oral hyperaemia and coronitis raising suspicions that BT or EHD could be responsible. Examinations are still pending but no further wildlife mortalities have been reported even in game in close contact with livestock.

Other Considerations/Risks:

With high populations of biting flies and midges, it is likely that lumpy skin disease and ephemeral fever will become prevalent in the near future.

Tick burdens are likely to increase considerably as the land dries, causing an increase in direct damage (-tick worry- including foot abscessation ). Nairobi sheep disease epidemics could be experienced, causing abortion storms and mortality in indigenous sheep and goats, resembling RVF. East Coast fever could extend well outside its normal range.

Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) is endemic in the area and mixing of cattle herds with crowding provides ideal conditions for transmission.

Several different leptospiral serovars (L. grippotyphosa and L. icterohaemorrhagiae, for example) cause disease in a broad range of livestock species, primarily in humid conditions. This is usually marked by fever, abortion in pregnant females, haemoglobinuria, jaundice with moderate to high mortality, closing resembling RVF. Leptospirosis needs to be considered in differential diagnosis.

Tse-tse fly transmitted trypanosomosis of cattle is normally present in southern Somalia and neighbouring Kenya; it is thought to have been increasing in incidence in NE Kenya before the recent events. Favourable conditions for tse-tse fly multiplication could be provided as the land dries out and infection rates could increase. An increase in incidence could also occur from mechanical transmission by biting flies which are prevalent. Surra (Trypanosoma evansi infection) is prevalent in camel populations in the region in normal times and an increase in incidence would be expected to follow the increase in the numbers of biting flies favoured by high soil moisture.


On 5/1/98 a team from the Veterinary Investigation Centre, Arusha, visited a ranch in western Kilimanjaro Region of northern Tanzania to investigate reported mortality, from December 1997, in cattle and Black-headed Persian sheep. In the sheep particularly, their findings were strongly indicative of an outbreak of BT. Samples have been taken and confirmation is awaited.


Investigations by the Ethiopian veterinary services in South Omo district of south-west Ethiopia from 11 to 17 Jan concluded that there was no unusual morbidity of livestock or people although there has been extensive flooding and conditions for vector multiplication are ideal.

The Ethiopian veterinary services are actively investigating the possibility that the same disease epidemic conditions as were experienced in Kenya and Somalia could have extended to include the south-eastern part of Ethiopia. Reports of human illness are also being followed up by the medical services. --Peter Roeder, FAO EMPRES, < on ProMED-mail <


Associated Press filed a report that 500,000 acre Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan faces fires that could threaten its populations of orangutans and proboscis monkeys. Fires were first observed on 31 January and are now spreading rapidly through the park .


The Press News Page by Diane Keenan and Seth Robson : "The disturbing developments on the New Zealand east coast in the past week include: [1] Reports of mysterious deaths of seals, crayfish, octopuses, and shellfish at Kaikoura. [2] Toxic algae confirmed as causing health problems such as sore throats and nose and eye irritations in beach goers in the Wairarapa. [3] Dead and dying fish washed up along the Wairarapa coast. [4] Public health officials have closed the coasts of Great Barrier Island to shellfish-gathering after detecting a poison that can cause paralysis.

Bob McDavitt, of the MetService, said that the weather pattern of El Nino was a factor in the emergence of toxic algae in coastal areas. "We're going for the mother of all El Ninos this summer, so it wouldn't surprise us if it also produced algae blooms." Canterbury Health yesterday tested for algal bloom off the Kaikoura coast after reports of dead seals, crayfish, octopuses, and shellfish. The National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research was taking samples from the dead octopuses washed up along the coast. Divers have reported dead kina (sea eggs) and crayfish off the Kaikoura Peninsula. Department of Conservation staff are investigating the Kaikoura reports. DOC Kaikoura field centre supervisor Mike Morrissey said two dead seals had been found near Kaikoura on Wednesday and tissue samples had been sent to Massey University for testing.

Further south, a seal separated from its mother was found at Waikuku, along with a dead adult seal. Mr Morrissey said there were about 3000 seals along the Kaikoura coast and some occasionally died of natural causes. However, the testing of the pair of dead seals was to ensure there was no connection with the dead New Zealand (Hooker) sea lions that were discovered last week at the Auckland Islands.

Mr Morrissey said he went diving off Kaikoura at the weekend and did not find any dead crayfish. "But I cannot think of any reason why kina would be lying upside down on the bottom unless they were suffering from an infection," he said.

Stress from hot weather killed an endangered adult female albatross and her chick at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin yesterday. DOC staff used fire hoses to spray nesting birds every two hours to keep them cool from high temperatures."--E Ravji < on ProMED-mail <,


Reuters and personal observations. Anchorage maximum temperatures continue hover around freezing, allowing skiing and other activities usually inhibited by near-zero cold. Record snows of 28 feet fell at Thompson Pass near Valdez, breaking the previous December record of 17 feet. I f present conditions continue, break up and snow melt may occur in April, a month early.--David Duffy <


Rod Thompson writing in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports that on the big island of Hawaii, agricultural production is down as farmers struggle to water their crops. Rainfall in Hilo was only 0.14 inches, instead of the normal 9.88 inches in January.

Since many homes rely on roof runoff for water, the drought means bringing tanks of water home from public spigots or paying contractors to deliver it.

On 3 February, we received this account from Hilo: "You may want to add this item to your El Nino observations. I live in Hilo, Hawai`i, widely reputed to be the rainiest town in the United States. In January, we had virtually no rain at all. Not only was Jan. 1997 the driest January on record, with about 0.13 inches of rain recorded, as opposed to a norm of about 12 inches, it was also the driest month on record -- period. In addition, for the first two weeks of the month, the customary trade winds were absent from the entire Main Hawaiian Island chain. This meant that the volcanic emissions that usually blow out to sea in normal trade wind conditions went nowhere, causing air quality state-wide (but especially in Hilo, near the volcano) to be very poor. In Hilo, sulfur emissions were at one point 60 times their normal levels. People with asthma and other respiratory disorders were suffering, as, indeed, were many who had never before experienced any difficulties associated with poor air quality (including myself). The trade winds have returned, but there is still no sign of rain."--Patricia Tummons <


Davan Maharaj, Los Angeles Times, reports that rescue shelters for young sealions starving along the California coast are full. For example, a Laguna Beach shelter has 81 pups, up from seven a year ago. The last time so many animals required care was during 1983 (during the last major ENSO event). At $175/month per pup, the overall costs of this effort are mounting.


Reuters reports that heavy rains on Saturday caused mudslides at several locations in California. In Rio Nido, 50 miles north of San Francisco, slides several homes and forcing the evacuation of 300 more. In San Mateo, 17 other houses were threatened. Almost 90,000 people lost power during the storm with wind gusts to 125 mph. Bridges had to be closed to trucks and other-wind vulnerable vehicles. Flooding closed several highways and officials began building emergency levees around several towns.

Light rains are expected Sunday with heavy snow in the mountains as the storm moved inland, but the next storm is due Tuesday or Wednesday. Damage to date is estimated at four dead, 1,000 homes destroyed r damaged and 3,500 people evacuated.

C. W. Gilbert reported from near Half Moon Bay: "Power was off tonight for about 5 hours from here to Cupertino, quite a stretch. Devils Slide (Highway 1) closed now heading north (from CBS radio); Highway 1 at Devils Slid closed permanently, also closed heading south at Pescadero (toward Santa Cruz), 13 mi. to the s. of here; and the road to Redwood City through LaHonda permanently closed (these from a friend whose husband picked it up on police radio); the only open road out of here, Highway 92 to San Mateo, has a sinkhole, and only one lane is open (CBS radio).--C. W. Gilbert <


Based on a report from Reuters: Peruvian President Alberto Fujimoro stated that 180 people are since late 1997 because of ENSO-related rainfall. Officially 108 are reported dead. and 100,000 are without homes. Cholera cases in January, 3,000, were almost as many as occurred in all of 1997.


Xinhua reports that Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa has requested international help to help Tanzania recover from El Nino. Road and railroad repairs will cost $45 million.


Associated Press: Mudslides have damaged several of the Nazca earthlines and are threatening other of the enigmatic constructions dating from 300 - 600 AD. Nearby Ica was flooded last week.


"The sudden onset of warm water (El Nino) near San Francisco beaches in July of 1997 was preceded by heavy and unusual south winds from a persistent cutoff low offshore of northern California. Observers, including myself, noticed immediately after the south winds, water temps rose 6-8 degrees in a matter of days. Rare fish were already being sighted offshore. Seen coincidentally, for the first time in known history by long time residents and sportsmen, were many huge groupings (thousands of animals in the largest groups) of California Sea Lions, porpoise, dolphin and other mammals more common to our south all together and feeding in a frenzy on sardine (unusual), mackerel and squid very near shore, just outside the surf line in many cases. Even the seals were "porpoising". Because they were so close, identification is nearly 100% accurate. These herds were seen for only about 1 week, then disappeared as fast as they showed up. No repeat sightings have been noted since then."--Craig Heden <


"Nick Gales said it appeared the main cause of pup death on Enderby Island was now starvation although some disease deaths were still occurring, while on Dundas the main cause seemed to be the mystery cause being investigated. Mr. Donoghue said the deaths of adult sea lions, especially the females or cows, was a greater concern as the remaining sea lion pups would die from starvation if their mothers did not return with food for them, in addition to losing potentially pregnant females. Cows usually left their pups while they foraged for food for up to three to five days, so it was difficult to know when or if the mothers would return.

At Davies Point on Campbell Island, 24 dead pups had been found and two of six adult females there appeared to have symptoms. About 95 percent of the sea lions breed on two small islands, Dundas and Enderby, which are part of the Auckland Islands group.

Minister of Conservation Nick Smith said a decision to review the sea lion bycatch from the squid fishery, will be made when further information on the cause of the deaths is known later in the month.

No results were expected immediately from the postmortem examinations. DOC would release final results when they were received. Mr. Donoghue said the three most likely possible causes of the deaths were a virus, a bacteria or a biotoxin, although it could be weeks before any definite results were available."



Total pups born

No. dead pups

% mortality

Dundas Island




Sandy Bay (Enderby Island)




Figure of Eight Island




South East Point (Enderby Island)













% --summarized from A NZ DEC press release by Martin Hugh-Jones < on ProMED-mail <


Recently-born Southern Sealions are being rescued from Lima beaches. Sealion colonies on the islands San Gallan , Palomino and San Lorenzo have decreased 50 %, with widespread mortality.--Francisco J. Miranda Avalos < onoannes-


Michael Christie of Reuters reported that Tijuana was declared a disaster area by Mexico after heavy rains and landslides killed at least 13 in flooding and left at least 300 people homeless. Damage was at least $1.25 million.


Reuters reports that Chinese officials are attributing strandings of ``tiger belly'' whales near Lindeng to ENSO-induced warm sea temperatures in the South China Sea.


Andrew Tarnowski of Reuters reports that despite damage to cocoa production in Ecuador and Malaysia, cocoa futures look good, with the possibility of a world production record. This is a sharp contrast to August and September when cocoa futures looked grim and prices rose to $1,940 per metric ton, based on experiences with the 1982 - 1983 ENSO event. The Ivory Coast (40 % of world production) expects a record crop of the world's cocoa while Ecuador has lost half its crop to floods and drought has "decimated" Malaysia's production. Ironically, Indonesia, reeling from drought and unrest, expects a record crop. Futures now stand at roughly $1,600/t.


Associated Press reports massive floods in northern Peru as ENSO rains fueled rivers in Ancash, Lambayeque and Piura


Reuters estimated 1,300 buildings damaged as an ENSO storm spawned hail, high winds and tornadoes.


Inter Press Service: A seven month drought, linked to ENSO and expected to continue to June, has damaged agriculture and gold mining in Guyana and led to a major water shortage as rivers have dried up. Salt water intrusion has reached more than 15 miles inland on some rivers, limiting water for irrigation. Rice production is expected to drop approximately 10 %, already resulting in an almost 30% increase in rice prices in the last six months. Mining is down 75%.


Reuters and Associated Press: Flooding and landslides have killed 108 and left 28,000 homeless since ENSO conditions began last year. Cholera cases already total 3,084, as many as all of last year. Agricultural production has lost $200 million and there has been a further $400 million in damage to infrastructure. Ecuador revised its gross domestic product growth down to 2.5 percent because of ENSO effects in nine of the country's 21 regions.

10 FEBRUARY 1998; CALIFORNIA: IMPACT President Clinton declared as disaster areas 27 California counties reeling from a string of ENSO-lined storms that began on 2 February.


Xinhua reports major flooding in Tanzania this year has killed 87 people, according to President Benjamin Mkapa, and left 155,000 people homeless. Over 128,000 agricultural hectares have been flooded, leading to expectations of major future food shortages. Flooding of the railroad has prevented food from reaching neighboring land-locked countries. Repairs may take six months. Flood-triggered cholera has killed at least 76 this year.


Inter Press Service reports that despite an ENSO-induced drought in Espiritu Santo, conditions look good for the Brazilian coffee harvest, expected to increase by 65 % (18.86 million sacks in 1997-98 to 31.17 million sacks in 1988-89) while conditions have deteriorated for coffee production in Indonesia, Colombia and Central America. Frosts in Brazil during June - August could, however, reverse the optimistic projections.


"The week of February 8 - At least 6 Brown Pelicans (juvs and adults) and one juv Heerman's gull are present in Coos Bay - 43 degrees, 20 minutes N."--Jan Hodder <


"9 February. Over the weekend it has rained heavily in the Departments of Tumbes, Piura, and Lambayeque. 80% of the city of Tumbes is under water. The ríos Zarumilla and Tumbes have overflowed again carrying more water than before. In Lambayeque the reservoirs are full and water started coming over the spillway. The río La Leche has cut the Panamerican Highway several times. Rains on the western slopes are causing landslides, loss of agricultural land and damaged houses. The río Chillon just north of Lima increased its flow in the mountains cutting the road to the town of Canta. In the Rímac valley east of Lima people have been placed on evacuation alert due to the rains. In eastern Peru in the Dept. Amazonas a landslide isolated several towns between Cajamarca and Chachapoyas. Also in eastern Ancash landslides have destroyed several bridges and washed away roads. Again too many things are occurring at once and we are only aware of the big events. There have been several dead persons and the disappearance of others.

In Peru all ports were closed. Apparently the end of last week till today from California to central Peru it was one big front with different intensities."-- Manuel Plenge <


Alister Bull of Reuters reports the eastern South African maize crop may be at risk because of hot weather during the plant's vulnerable pollination stage. Maize futures have yet to rise, but they are expected to do so in the next few weeks if rains do not arrive. South African farmers reduced maize acreage based on early ENSO warnings.


Andrew Cawthorne (Reuters) states that President Alberto Fujimori announced that more than 200 people are believed dead in Peru since the beginning of ENSO conditions of heavy rain, flooding and landslides. At least 234,000 people are homeless with 14,000 homes destroyed. In Ica alone, 100,000 people had to evacuate their homes following flooding.


Reuters reports at least 40 dead in an ENSO-generated landslide following two days of heavy rain at Mocotoro in the Tipuani region.


"In reference to information provided in the report from El Mercurio and quoted in the ProMED-mail post entitled: Leptospirosis-Ecuador (02) dated Feb 09, I hope the following will be of some assistance: a. Between 29 January and today (February 11, 1998) a total of 37 suspected cases (febrile with icteric-haemorragic manifestations) have been reported. Twenty-eight (28) are from Guayas Province (where Guayaquil is located). Additionally, there have been suspected cases reported from the Provinces of Manabi(3), Los Rios(1), Canar (1), El Oro (1) and three cases about whom information on place of residence is not yet available. . . d. Ten of the thirty seven (37) suspected cases have died. Of these, three (3) had positive results for leptospirosis and there were 6 negative results for leptospirosis. No additional laboratory data available.--Keith Carter < on ProMED-mail <


Reuters reports that ENSO rainfall conditions of increased rainfall may continue to May for California and the southeastern U.S. Temperatures in the central U.S. will be milder than expected, but the south of the U.S. will be cooler than normal.


Tom Doggett of Reuters reports that Commerce Secretary Daley has warned that the world cost of the current ENSO event may reach $10 billion, similar to the impact of the 1982 - 1983 event. New Orleans, Tampa, and Charleston have had record rainfalls. Chicago, Minneapolis, Bismarck, and Buffalo, New York have had record warm winters.


Inter Press Service reports that Bolivian peasants, many in isolated high Andean valleys, are protesting the lack of government relief from agricultural damage following floods and drought. Drought has affected almost 60,000 families, causing $13 million in agricultural damage. Up to 80% of the quinoa cereal crop has been lost in Potosi department, requiring emergency food distribution. The worst effects are expected to occur in coming months.


Business Wire reports that Factory Mutual has a new homepage with information on how businesses can protect themselves against ENSO conditions.--Factory Mutual <


Peru's 1997 fish exports were up 24 % from 1996, lead by a 22 % increase in fishmeal and a 62 % increase in frozen fish exports.--via


Xinhua reports Kenya's expected coffee harvest may fall at least 10 %, its lowest level in a decade, because of ENSO-induced rain and a subsequent, expected drought. Coffee is the third most important source of foreign exchange for Kenya, afer tea and tourism, already damaged by ENSO.


"On February 11 a dirt dike of a water reservoir in Trujillo broke due to the rains. Parts of the town were under 50 cm of water. The main plaza and the airport were also affected to a lesser degree, but the airport had to be closed. Chimbote, northern Dept. Ancash, is isolated due to cuts in the Panamerican highway by the ríos Casma and Nepeña. From a weather report, rains are moving fast from the Cordillera in Ayabaca in Dept. Piura towards the sea. Lima is now hot and humid, but dry. However the río Rímac is rising. The río Chillón has cut the road to Canta in eight places. From Lima south the Panamerican Highway is open and somewhat dry. The Cañete, Chincha, Ocoña and Majes rivers all south of Lima are still carrying normal levels of water. In Peru there is an outbreak of conjuntitivis. Cholera is also present in several areas."--Manuel Plenge <


Xinhua reports one dead and 1,500 houses damaged in river flooding following heavy rains along the Colombian Pacific coast.


"According to the Ministry of Health, 240,587 cases of dengue were reported in 1997 in Brazil (57,121 more cases than in the year 1996). In only the southeast area in January of 1998 the transmission increased 586% when compared with January of 1997. According to the Minister the amplification of virus (principally dengue-1 but also dengue-2) is due to the effects of El Nino (increase in mean temperature and humidity in the past months, advancing the rainy season, foreseen for March to June).

The lack of resources for prevention and vector control in municipal districts is thought to have contributed to the acute increase in number of cases."--Maria Rita Donalisio, MD < via


Reuters reports that President Clinton declared Broward, Dade and Monroe counties as disaster areas, making federal aid and loans available. Vice President t Gore stated that he and Clinton were ``committed to doing everything we can'' concerning ``the damage and disaster caused by El Nino.''


Reuters reports that Somalia, already reeling from 2,000 dead and several hundred thousand homeless, may face heavy rains and flooding during its upcoming March to June rainy season. Almost half a million people are being fed by relief efforts.

Much of the area remains cut off by water, accessible only by plane.


CNN reports southern California may receive up to 4.5 inches of rain today and the entire state can expect to be hit by a storm tomorrow, threatening homes along the Russian River and at Clear Lake. Damage so far stands at ten deaths and $300 million in 22 counties.


"KCBS radio reported that the fishing industry in Half Moon Bay, California, is depressed because of El Nino. The herring catch is down to almost nothing, they said." Also California crop damage is up to $49 million.--Claire Gilbert <


El Comercio of Lima reports 1,000 houses destroyed in northern Peru because of eight hours of h eavy rains. The cities of Lambayeque Province are without water, electricity, or ground links.


The Associated Press is reporting that entire villages are being abandoned in Papua New Guinea following drought, exhausted food supplies, and disease outbreaks. Rains have begun but local populations will not be out of danger of starvation until the next harvest.


"As of January 1998 the corals of Galapagos are showing massive bleaching, as in the Niño of 1983. In early October of 1997, Bartolome, Champion, and Urvina Bay (Isabela Island) were visited. These all have corals in the vicinity ranging in depth from 2 to 12 meters. At that time there were no signs of bleaching at any of the sites.

In late January of 1998 the sites were revisited. Additionally a visit was made to the most developed coral location in Galapagos, that of Wenman Island in the extreme northerly section of the Archipelago. At all sites visited there were marked signs of bleaching. However, the bleaching was not complete for most colonies and some species seem to be experiencing a greater effect than others

At Bartolome all corals were partially white with the exception of Pocillopora, which, apart from the very tips of the branches, was looking remarkably healthy, although the species is not common there. Other species were starkly white, but a close examination revealed that the tops of the heads were affected more severely than the sides, which appeared to suggest that the parts most exposed to the sun were the most affected. This, in turn, seems to suggest that it is not uniquely the rise in sea temperature that causes bleaching of corals in Galapagos, but at the very least a combination of temperature and sunlight

At Urvina Bay, the Pavona clavus heads were in much better shape, with an estimated 15% bleaching and that limited to the relatively sharp corners and edges on the heads. These corals are in shallow water, 2-3 meters deep. Temperatures near the corals show that they rose from 26&deg;C in October to 29-30&deg;C in mid-January. Thereafter the temperature has fallen slightly to around 28.5&deg;C.

On the east coast of Wenman, where abundant corals grow on a 12-meter ledge and the steep slope to seaward, Porites corals were showing strong bleaching and colonies down to 25 meters were displaying this effect, although some individuals appeared to be faring better than others, even at shallower depths. Again the few Pocillopora corals appeared healthy. As elsewhere, the shaded sides of corals showed less bleaching than the uppermost parts. On the north side of the island on a vertical face, the corals were looking healthy and showed no sign of bleaching. However, the sea temperature was in excess of 29&deg;C and no thermocline was present down to 25 meters. No sharks or serranids were present. At Champion bleaching is partial. Pavona gigantea at 12 meters showed some colonies still colored and healthy whilst others were bleaching

Generally the SST's around the Archipelago increased from about 28&deg;C to about 29.5&deg; late in 1997 and have stayed high since then. No thermocline was detected in January down to 25 meters at any site."--Godfrey Merlen,Santa Cruz, Galapagos VIA Jerry Wellington <wellington@UH.EDU


"Water temperature: 4 C. A Pacific white-sided dolphin : Lagenorhynchus obliquidens was observed early in the morning on 2/5/98 on the northeast side of Auke Bay outside of the NMFS Auke Bay Laboratory at 58.22.52 N and -134.38.42W. When first observed, the dolphin was surfacing near the lab's salt water intake markers which are located less than 100m offshore at 58.22.52 N and -134.38.42 W. By mid-morning, the dolphin was observed following a longline fishing vessel out of Auke Bay Harbor. It then followed another vessel back towards the harbor this time making multiple jumps into the air. Around 1200, the dolphin was seen heading south of the harbor along the west side of Auke Bay. The dolphin was out of sight and has not been observed by employees at the lab since."--Noele Weemes <


"The total number of New Zealand sea lion pups that have died on the subantarctic Auckland Islands appears to have peaked, the Department of Conservation says. DOC-contracted vet Nick Gales reported that there had only been a slight increase in pup deaths - still at about 48 percent total mortality of this year's pup production. The main cause of death was now starvation, not the mystery disease.

DOC marine mammal expert Mike Donoghue said the cause of the mystery deaths was still unknown. "We hope to hear by next week whether virologists in the Netherlands have managed to isolate a virus from the samples that were sent last Friday. If no traces of a virus are found, the search for a causative agent will then be narrowed down to bacteria and or a biotoxins.' " --Elayne Ravji < VIA ProMED-mail <


"Elephant Seal Mortalities. In early and mid-February 1998, a series of El Nino storms was blamed for the deaths of as many as 260 elephant seal pups at Point Reyes National Seashore, CA. The established colony had an estimated 400 adults and 300 pups. [Assoc Press]"--Congressional Research Service VIA MARMAM Editors <marmamed@UVic.CA


World Food Program Emergency Report No. 07 for Africa, distributed by the Africa News Service: "1.1 Delivery of food to WFP beneficiaries throughout the Great Lakes region remains constrained because of continued problems of logistics capacity along the southern corridor from Dar es Salaam. Food movement via Mpulungu in Zambia is stalled, due to a downed bridge north of Kasama and congestion in Mpulungu port, resulting from recent heavy rains and increased commercial traffic.Repair works on the bridge are expected to be completed within one week but meanwhile some many trucks are stranded at the harbour. 1.2 The road/rail link from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma is performing at the target rate of 6,000 tons per month, with this capacity shared between the Tanzanian drought, the Tanzanian refugee and the Uvira returnee programmes, as well as a part of the Burundi programme. WFP also continues the despatch of food to the Tanzanian drought project from Mombasa via Kisumu to Mwanza.

1.3 As commercial operators are also beginning to use the Kisumu port link to northern Tanzania, congestion problems are beginning to appear on the Mombasa-Kisumu rail line, meaning that the majority of WFP's cargo on the northern corridor is moving on the overland rail route to Uganda,with a limited use of the Kisumu-Port Bell rail ferry link. 1.4 Increased commercial food imports into Kenya, due to food production disruptions over the last few months, are now also affecting the Mombasa-Kampala rail line. WFP is holding discussions with both Kenya railways and the Uganda Railways Corporation, to ensure that planned throughput levels will be maintained, as the northern corridor is presently supplying all of Uganda's and Rwanda's relief food needs, as well as two-thirds of Burundi's relief food requirements."


World Food Program Emergency Report No. 07 for Africa, distributed by the Africa News Service: " 2.1 On 5 February, FAO issued a special report on East Africa, describing the effects of the heavy rains, attributed to the El Nino, which have caused extensive crop damage in the region. The report indicates that the resulting floods have seriously affected food production and food distribution and caused extensive damage to crops in the field and in stores. Large livestock losses were also reported. The severe damage inflicted on the sub-region's transport infrastructure is seriously disrupting the movement of goods. 2.2 In Tanzania, apart from the disruption of rail and road systems, the heavy rains and flooding resulted in localized crop losses and damage of the 1997/998 Vuli crop, grown from October to February. In central and southern parts of the country, where cereal crops of the main season are at developing stage, crops losses in some low-lying areas may be significant, but the abundant precipitation has been generally beneficial. 2.3 In Uganda, the heavy rains, mainly in eastern parts, resulted in floods and mudslides which caused loss of life, damage to housing and infrastructure and localized crop losses. Prices of maize and beans, which by December 1997 had doubled in a year, are anticipated to decline with the arrival of the new crop. Nevertheless, the food situation remains difficult for the large number of displaced people in northern parts affected by persistent civil conflict."


World Food Program Emergency Report No. 07 for Africa, distributed by the Africa News Service: "3.1 After a relatively dry spell of two weeks, heavy rain fell again in much of Kenya from 10 February onwards. Fortunately only light showers were experienced in most of the flood affected areas of north- eastern Kenya. The most serious affect of the renewed rains has been to exacerbate conditions on the vital Mombasa-Nairobi highway. Temporary bridges have been built to replace those which collapsed in January, but road edges and hard shoulders remain eroded, and destroyed tarmac surfacing remains unrepaired. 3.2 WFP's air operations into flood affected areas have continued with air drops in communities still stranded by floods in Wajir, Garissa and Tana River districts. Between 10 December and 8 February, 1,423 tons of WFP food and 543 tons of other relief supplies had been flown into flood affected communities by Hercules C-130 aircraft. However, in the first week of February deliveries were only 61 percent of what had been planned due to the shortage of funds to cover air operating costs. If further contributions are not received in the near future WFP may have to further scale back its air operations, including the services to partner UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. 3.3 Similar problems exist with the air bridge which WFP has run since mid-December to get food and other supplies to the 125,000 refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp. Based on the current funding situation, it may not be possible to distribute more than 50 percent of the normal ration to refugees during the early March distribution. 3.4 WFP will continue to take advantage of any drier weather in the weeks ahead to restore road deliveries of food to people being assisted under the Emergency Operation and in Dadaab. In the case of Dadaab, WFP is working with UNHCR, the Ministry of Public Works and interested donors to initiate emergency road repairs before the onset of the long rains which are due in eastern Kenya at the beginning of April."


World Food Program Emergency Report No. 07 for Africa, distributed by the Africa News Service: " 4.1 Meteorologists have warned of the possibility of above-average rainfall in the normal rainy season (March to June) which may result in further flooding. WFP fears that 200,000 people once again will be affected by flooding over the next few months as a result. Thousands of people are still homeless following the flooding which began last October. "


The Hawaii Star-Bulletin reported brush fires on three islands. A Kauai fire burned an acre before being brought under control. On Maui, a two mile area was burned, damaging several homes and leading to evacuation of the area. The firs is now under control. On Hawaii (Big Island), a 300 acre fire threatened housing developments south of Hilo.


"Saturday 14th February from 4.00 p.m. gmt. 'Brown' rain fell across a wide area of North West England including Chester [4.00 p.m.] and Alderley Edge location 53.24 N 2.44 W. This rain left a fine deposit of very fine brown sand on everything but was most noticeable on cars. We understand that this was due to the recent 'high' over south west Europe and the wind direction which has brought warm air up from the Sahara Desert in North Africa together with sand

The temperature in North West England has been spectacularly warm for Winter - we seem to have been in a permanent state of 'Autumn' or Early Spring'. There a new buds on the trees bursting to produce leaves and it is only mid-February. There has only been snow on a handful of days - some heavy, but it melted away quickly. The temperature in my office today is 25C with humidity of 31% and the windows are wide open! I am located 16 miles South of Manchester UK - which has a reputation for being a rainy city, but which has become the driest city in Europe in the last 6 years!"--Judith Gregory <


O Jornal do Brasil, Sat 14 Feb 1998: "The Minister of Health, Carlos Albuquerque, announced yesterday [13 Feb 1998] that the government plans to intensify the fight against dengue. In the Southeast Region (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais & Espirito Santo) in January 1998 the disease has increased 7-fold compared to January 1997. It is planned to contract 14,000 new sanitary guards and train the 36,000 existing ones and carry out a prevention campaign. Their action will be reinforced with a radio campaign.

The minister is reported to have said that the epidemic is due to the increase in rain and temperature provoked by El Nino, and that with the reduction of these in March the epidemic will decrease in intensity, as it has every year

Espirito Santo: This state has recorded 11,000 cases so far [in 1998]. The cities of Vitoria, Guarapari & Cachoeiro do Itapemirim are affected, and 5 cases of DHF [dengue hemorrhagic fever] have been confirmed.

Drs Flavio Nobre and Elcio Couto calculate that the number of actual cases of dengue is 5 times the official figures. The State Secretary of Health has trained 80 health agents with 50 vehicles for the anti-dengue campaign, which will involve radio, TV, newspapers and leaflets to tell the public about prevention.

[Predictions about the weather and dengue are uncertain at best. Rio had an abnormally dry January this year, and that may have favored breeding of the vector mosquito, rather than heavy rains elsewhere. El Nino may cause a prolonged wet and hot season beyond March, so the epidemic may not go away as it has in previous years. Hence the training just now of thousands of prevention workers may not be too late to affect the course of the epidemic. Let me declare my interest in this -- I have just begun a year's study leave at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, so I wish Brazil well in its campaign against dengue - Mod.JW]--John Woodall <WOODALL@SERVER.BIOQMED.UFRJ.BR VIA ProMED-mail <


Jude Webber of Reuters reports that the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) believes a "near-record number of countries" face food shortages, in large part because of the ongoing ENSO event having grown from 31 to 37 countries since last year in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and parts of the former Soviet Union. Africa remains the hardest hit. Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands report ENSO agricultural damage.


"Detroit had its 7th warmest January ever. The monthly average temperature was +9.9 degrees. To give you an even better read on our unusual warmth, in nearly forty years of record keeping at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, this is the latest we have ever gone into winter without a temperature dropping below ten degrees.

Since January 1st, we have had only one day with a negative departure from normal, and that was only three degrees below normal. Furthermore, in early January (normal high = 31), we had six straight days at or above 49. Also, 12 of the 17 days so far this month have been at or above 40.

My research into past El Ninos and their effects on our weather in Detroit show that above normal temperatures is a strongly noted effect. In addition, we have had many monthly extremes (both temp and precip) which occurred during El Nino years.

"The final tally is in: yesterday (17 February 1998) Detroit Metropolitan Airport recorded 2.24" of rain, the highest total ever for this date. The old record of 0.93" (1891) was completely obliterated. This is also the 4th highest daily precipitation total ever for the month of February here. Obviously, we cannot blame a single event on El Nino, but it does raise eyebrows!"-- Paul Gross - WDIV <


"On Ross Island, Antarctica (78 deg S), this past austral summer, we observed two unusual phenomena in regard to the biology of South Polar Skuas. ENSO may well be responsible, as this species "winters" in warmer climes, i.e. equatorial Pacific and North Pacific etc. The first thing was late arrival of birds (ages 30-39 years old, deduced from banding) for breeding. A hefty proportion arrived too late to breed and several lost the territories they had been holding for decades. The second was increased mortality, although I'll have to hold off a bit on this until next year, in case many did not bother to show up for breeding. In any case, the usual adult survival rate is on the order of 95% per year, but on the basis of returns, adult survival this past year may be on the order of 60%. "--David Ainley <<


Deena Beasley of Reuters reports all the ENSO-generated rainfall may lower the cost of hydropower for California, as heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada have produced a snowpack 157% above normal. The last hydropower record was set following the 1983 ENSO event.


Africa News Service reported excerpts of an Food and Agricultural Organization, special report on the impact of the current ENSO event on food production in Africa.

"SOMALIA: Torrential rains in mid-October caused the worst floods in decades, resulting in an estimated 2,000 deaths, 250,000 displaced persons, serious damage to housing and infrastructure and crop and livestock losses.

The heavy rains that persisted until early January adversely affected the 1997/98 secondary crops, normally accounting for some 20 percent of the annual cereal production, which had been planted just before the floods occurred. Worst affected areas are the main southern agricultural parts, along the Juba and Shebelle rivers, particularly Baidoa, Q/dhere, Dinsor, Bardere, Jilib, Jamame, Sablale,K/Warey, Brava, Kismayo, Xagar and Afmadow where crop losses are estimated to be around 80 percent.

With the recession of the water levels, extensive replanting has taken place from December but the outcome is uncertain. For the country as a whole, preliminary estimates indicate a decline in production of one-third of the expected normal level. This is the fourth year of below-average harvest. A more detailed assessment of the output is currently being undertaken.

The floods also resulted in losses of household cereal stocks from the 1997 close to the previous year's below-average level. Import requirements for the 1997/98 marketing year (August/July) have been revised upward to 310,000 tons, of which about 110,000 tons will need to be covered by food aid

While the floods alone resulted in losses of livestock estimated at 35, 500 animals, the outbreak of the Rift Valley Fever, which has spread since October from north-eastern Kenya to southern areas of Somalia, is reportedly causing losses of large numbers of animals, mainly camels and goats.

KENYA: Heavy rains, particularly in November and January, resulted in serious floods which caused loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and housing, left many villages isolated and displaced large sections of the local population. The areas worst affected include the Coast Province, North Eastern Province and parts of the Eastern Province. These areas have been declared a Disaster Zone by the Government, which has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency.

The rains also adversely affected the 1997/98 maize crop, the main staple of the country. Torrential rains in October/November, at the time of the harvest of the main season crop, which accounts for some 80 percent of the annual output, reduced yields of maize already affected by a dry spell at the critical grain-filling stage. Yields of wheat were also affected by heavy rains at harvest. However, the worst effect of the floods was on the second season crops, grown in the bi-modal rainfall areas of Western, Central and Eastern provinces from mid- October to February. The maize output of this season is estimated to have declined by one-third from normal levels, while the bean crop was sharply reduced due to both adverse weather and lack of seed.

In aggregate, the 1997/98 maize production is estimated at 2.3 million tons, slightly above the reduced level of 1996/97 but below the average of the past five years. The food supply situation is anticipated to be tight in the months ahead. Maize import requirements, expected to be covered mostly commercially, are estimated at 800,000 tons. This is, however, lower than in the previous year when maize imports reached 1 million tons. Total cereal imports, including wheat and rice in which the country has a structural deficit, in 1997/98 (October/September) are provisionally forecast at 1.2 million tons

While the abundant rains of the past months improved pastures for livestock, an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in October, as a result of the flooding that has caused an explosion in the mosquito population that carries the culprit virus, has resulted in the deaths of many people as well as losses of thousands of cattle, sheep, goats and camels.

TANZANIA: The main impact of the heavy rains and consequent flooding since November 1997 has been the severe disruption of rail and road systems in the country, which is causing serious problems in transporting essential goods to areas of need. Of particular concern are remote villages where farmers have lost production or stocks due the rains and where relief food cannot be transported due to impassable roads.

The heavy rains resulted also in localized crop losses and damage of the 1997/98 Vuli crop, grown from October to February. The worst affected areas are the low-lying parts of Mara, Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Tanga and Shinyanga regions, as well as southern parts of Mwanza where heavy clay soils predominate. However, as crop cultivation is also practised in highland areas, production here will be favourable due to higher rainfall. Overall, losses in low-lying areas will tend to be compensated by gains in highland areas. The Vuli crop, which is the least important of the country's three annual crops, is expected to be good and production is anticipated to recover from a succession of drought-affected harvests.

Following a destructive drought in 1996/97, and in addition to crop losses, a large number of livestock were lost in pastoral areas. The heavy rains in the last few months have had a very beneficial effect on pastures, which will result in recovery in the livestock sector. From a household food security point of view, such recovery has important implications for some sections of the population, such as the Masai, who rely heavily on livestock

In central and southern parts, where cereal crops of the 1998 main season are at developing stage, crop losses to floods in low-lying areas of Iringa and Mbeya regions may be significant. However, the abundant precipitation of the past months has been generally beneficial and, providing favourable weather prevails in the remainder of the growing season, production may recover from the poor level of 1997. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has just returned from the country and is finalizing its report.

UGANDA: Heavy rains from mid-November to early December, mainly in the eastern parts, resulted in floods and mudslides which caused loss of life, damage to housing and infrastructure and localized crop losses. Food assistance to the flood-affected population is currently being provided, but the operations are being hampered by bad road conditions. However, the overall outlook for the current second season food crops, now being harvested, is favourable. Despite the localized crop losses, the abundant rains since the beginning of the season were beneficial for crop development. The heavy rains have also improved pastures and livestock conditions, particularly in the Karamoja region, previously affected by prolonged dry weather.

Prices of maize and beans, which by December 1997 had doubled in a year, are anticipated to decline with the arrival of the new crop in the markets; the previously tight food supply, following two consecutive reduced harvests, is expected to ease. Nevertheless, the food situation will remain difficult for the large number of displaced people in northern parts, affected by persistent civil conflict.

ETHIOPIA: Unusually heavy rains began in all zones of the country during the first week of October and continued until the end of November. These rains disrupted harvesting patterns for all crops; accentuated seed drop in teff; slowed the rate of desiccation of later sown grains prior to threshing; increased spoilage in stacks of harvested cereals; caused some germination in standing crops of wheat and sorghum; and increased the likelihood of fungal attacks in both standing and stored grains, particularly pulses. In the south-eastern parts bordering Somalia and Kenya, the heavy rains resulted in extensive flooding causing loss of life, displacement of a large number of people and damage to housing. Over 12,000 domestic animals are reported to have been lost and 30,000 hectares of land inundated. Food and non-food assistance is being distributed by the Government in the affected areas.

The heavy rains, which followed erratic precipitation earlier in the season, coupled with a lower use of fertilisers, resulted in a one- quarter decline in the 1997 grain production from the record level of the previous year. Following two years of self-sufficiency, the grain import requirement in 1998 is estimated at 530,000 tons, to be covered mainly by food aid, for over 5 million vulnerable people, including those affected by a reduced harvest.

ERITREA: Unseasonable rains in October at harvest time led to spoilage in stacks of harvested cereals and reduced yields of the crops already adversely affected by a dry spell in September, when the crops were at the critical maturing stage. The grain output is estimated at the same reduced level of 1996. Also, as a result of the unexpected heavy rains, high levels of locust infestations were reported in northern parts but control operations have been undertaken

Cereal prices, which normally decline at harvest time, registered a sharp increase in November reflecting the anticipated poor output. With a below-average cereal harvest for the third consecutive year and a sharp reduction in grain export availability from neighbouring Ethiopia, the food situation will be tight in the year ahead.

Elsewhere in the sub-region, crop yields were adversely affected by a one-month delay in the onset of the rains in Rwanda and Burundi, followed by heavy rains since mid-October that resulted in floods and localized crop losses in low-lying areas. However, because of significant increases in plantings, food production in these two countries is estimated to have increased from the reduced levels of the previous year. Nevertheless, civil strife in these countries continues to constrain food production. In the Sudan, the 1997 coarse grains production was negatively affected by below-average precipitation in parts, mainly in the South where the harvest was sharply reduced, but also in areas of the Western regions of North Darfur and North Kordofan. The output is estimated 15 percent down on the bumper harvest of the previous year but still above average. While overall food supplies are expected to be adequate due to high levels of carryover stocks, relief food aid is needed for 2.4 million displaced and drought-affected people.

FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System is continuously monitoring the effects on crops of weather anomalies attributed to El Nino and their impact on food supply situation in various parts of the world and will issue periodic updates as necessary. This Special Report is available on the Internet as part of the FAO World Wide Web." <HTTP://WWW.FAO.ORG/GIEWS".


CNN reports that rains, blamed on ENSO, killed three and left 3,000 homeless in Rio de Janeiro state.


The bank ING Barings estimates the growth of the Gross Domestic Product for Peru will be 4.5 %, although this may need to be revised as the impact of ENSO is assessed. In con trast, the government had earlier predicted an increase of only 1.5 %.-- <


Joe Bigham of Associated Press reports damage to agriculture is at $65.6 million out of a $24.5 million dollar industry in California but costs may increase if clear weather does not allow pollinating insects to work on the $ 1 billion almond crop. Letttuce may also be affected, although new production in Arizona and New Mexico may prevent any shortages or may even lead to a lettuce glut if California's crop comes through.-- report VIA C. W. Gilbert <


Associated Press reports yet another ENSO storm hit northern California on Thursday, causing numerous car accidents and leading to evacuation of almost 200 homes in Petaluma, north of San Francisco. One person died in Berkeley when a tree crashed into his car, bringing the California death toll to eleven. February rainfall of 12.57 inches broke a record set in 1878. California damage to date is $475 million.

20 FEBRUARY 1998. CALIFORNIA: MARINE MAMMAL (DISEASE) "My name is MiMi Reyes. I currently volunteer at Friends of the Sea Lion Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, CA. The center serves to rehabilitate injured and sick seals and sea lions. Due to El Nino, we have experienced overwhelming numbers of sea lion pups washing up on shore. One pup in particular seems to be suffering from some sort of skin infection. The lesion-like areas are very pussy . The skin sloughs off when we attempt to clean it, and the tissue looks gray, possibly dead tissue. Representatives from Sea World who happened to be visiting the center thought the infection may be the San Miguel Island disease, but weren't positive. If this is the disease is there any way to treat it. Is there anyone that knows what this is or how can we treat it and stop it? I mention the word stop because this animal's skin seems to be deteriorating quickly over the entire body, especially at the hind flippers. Please e-mail me as soon as possible."--MiMi Reyes < VIA Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA


Nicole Mordant of Reuters reports that maize in South Africa will be down from last year's 8.5 million metric tons, but the county will still produce at least 6.858 mmt, above the 6.5 mmt the country needs.


Highlights of press release 6 of 18 February from IMARPE: The Intertropical Convergence Zone is fluctuating between 2 N and 5 S latitudes, leading to convective activity and resulting rain falls of 342 mm in Tumbes, 119 mm in Talara and 124 mm in Piura. Air temperatures are up to 8.0&deg;C above average especially in northern Peru between Chiclayo y Chimbote. Sea surface temperature continues to increase in northern and central Peru, but is falling in the south. Sealevel, an indication of the Kelvin Wave at the heart of ENSO, reached a maximum of 40 cm above the mean in December, fell to 28 cm in January and in February was at 10 - 18 cm above normal.

Fishing for anchoveta remains prohibited, to protect recruiting young, but fishing for sardina began again on 28 January, aimed at adults. Merluza (hake) have returned to their normal habitat between Paita and Islas Lobos de Afuera. Mackerel and jurel (jack mackerel?) has increased along the coast. Dolphin fish remain a major species landed, but tuna, marlin and sword fish are not being seen now as they were earlier, last May - June. Tropical crabs Callinectes arcuatus are becoming rare, while cooler water species are becoming more common..-- translated from material provided by Miguel Rabi < of press release # 6 FROM el Instituto del Mar del Peru <


The Associated Press reported that the ENSO-generated drought in Hawaii was beginning to affect the Big Island's Hilo area. Instead of 15 inches, rainfall to date has been only half an inch, the driest since 1912. A state of emergency prohibits lawn mowing, car washing, and irrigating crops, using water from public systems. Brush fires have burned 2,500 acres, some in suburban area. Macadamia production is expected to plunge 25 % and the nursery industry may be devastated.


Tiffany Woods of Reuters reports southern sealion pubs are coming ashore in central Chile as their food-stressed parents abandon them. One beach count suggests at least a mortality of one per kilometer. A local university professor reported "30 dead sealions and dozens of dead seabirds" at Pan de Azucar National Park, north of Valparaiso. Sea turtles (greens?) have been reported from north and central Chile as well as an influx of pelicans (see earlier reports from Chile on this).


"According to the February 22, 1998 Internet edition of the Bolivian daily El Deber, from Santa Cruz de La Sierra, at least 24 cases of cholera with one death were notified in El Alto and La Paz (the capital). The outbreak seems to be centered in El Alto, Bolivia's 4th most populous city, and the poorest. It's 5 years since an outbreak of cholera left more than a hundred dead in Bolivia. Both cities are in the Andean region, were the impact of El Nino seems to be more intense.

There is a considerable amount of worry that the outbreak could reach the Brazilian border, where it is raining intensely." -- Luiz Jacintho da Silva < VIA ProMED-mail <


""The East African" 16 th February, and from "New Vision" 17 th February: Kampala - Uganda is experiencing a serious blood shortage as a result of El Nino-induced epidemics of malaria and other fevers that have spread to all areas of the country since last November.

Health officials say demand for blood has trebled in the past three months. The director of the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services/Nakasero Blood Bank, Dr Peter Kataha, said that an increase in blood collections had not been able to keep pace with rising demands for transfusions, especially among children and expectant mothers.

Said Dr Kataha: "There's a shortage of blood across the country. We are just overwhelmed. There is an extraordinary increase in blood transfusions," he said. "Our main problem now is children and expectant mothers because they are the ones who are succumbing to malaria. The situation is bad because the usage of blood has more than trebled because of the epidemic of malaria." Pregnant women and children, who have lower immunity and were thus more susceptible to malaria, were consuming 75 per cent of blood collected by the bank. "More than 50 per cent of the blood we collect is used by children because they are the main victims of malaria and 25 per cent is used up by women who have got complications in childbirth and the other 25 per cent for accident victims and other emergencies."

Dr Kataha said the situation had worsened following the heavy El Nino rains experienced from last November, which were accompanied by cholera and fever pandemics which caused anemic conditions in sufferers and hence need for more blood. .."-- Martin Hugh-Jones < VIA ProMED-mail <


The Arizona Republic, 19 Feb. 1998: "A 28-year old Apache County, Arizona, woman has been stricken by the hantavirus respiratory ailment, the first case in Arizona since June 1996, health officials reported. The patient is recovering, the Department of Health Services said Tuesday. Nonetheless, officials called the case disturbing and said it might herald the possibility of a new outbreak if adequate precautions aren't taken.

[Apache County is located in east central Arizona, contiguous with the New Mexico state line. It is an area of broad, open expanses, streams, mountains, and what appears to be an abundance of excellent rodent habitat. This is not the first human infection from at area, so I am wondering why, if the newspaper report is correct, "officials" consider this particular case disturbing and a possible harbinger "of a new outbreak if adequate precautions aren't taken". What precautions? Is there something unusual about the epidmiology of this case? - Mod.CHC]"--Peter Petrisko < VIA ProMED-mail <


Barbara Johnson of Reuters reported that on Monday, the worst outbreak of toronadoes in Florida history, killed at least 38, with winds of up to 260 mph. Eleven more were missing. Over 110,000 customers were left without power. Blood supplies were reported to be running low in some areas. The twelve tornadoes left a 75 mile path over four counties; one ran for nine miles over a 200 yard path. President Clinton was to visit the area on Wednesday.


OCHA Report No. 6:


1. During the past days heavy rains have intensified the incidence of flooding and landslides in the northern, central and southern parts of Peru. Furthermore, several roads and bridges have been seriously destroyed, leaving large cities such as Tumbes, Piura, Talara Chiclayo, Trujillo and Chimbote and hundreds of small villages isolated all over the country. In the past week, the most seriously affected areas have been the departments of Tumbes, Ancash, Lambayeque and La Libertad.

2. In the Department of Tumbes, the rivers of Tumbes and Zarumilla broke their banks due to heavy rains, affecting in particular the cities of Aguas Verdes and Tumbes. In just one day the city of Tumbes received 220 millimetres, which is unusual, as the city normally receives 20 millimetres per year. With water levels up to 2.5 meters in the streets, people were taking refuge on the roofs of their houses. According to the press, 80% of the city was flooded. In Aguas Verdes the water level in the streets reached 1.5 meters affecting 1,500 families. In both cities thousands of people had to be evacuated and many lost everything they had.

3. According to latest estimates, approximately 78,000 people have been affected, of which some 61,000 in the Departments of Tumbes and La Libertad. So far, some 200 people have died or are missing.


4. Some 13,000 houses have been damaged or completely destroyed, of which 10,000 in the Departments of La Libertad, Ancash and Lambayeque. The road and bridge infrastructure has also been seriously affected, in particular in the Departments of Ancash and Lambayeque Some 240 hectares of farmland (corn and potatoes) have been destroyed in the Department of Ancash.


5. Diseases are reportedly beginning to emerge due to high temperatures and humidity. A significant number of cases of malaria has been identified, in particular in the Departments of Tumbes and Piura. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO is assisting the Government in combating the epidemics through the provision of technical support, medicines and water containers.


6. Due to the interrupted roads and destroyed bridges, the Government has established air bridges between Piura-Tumbes, Piura-Talara and other isolated areas, transporting people and distributing relief supplies (clothes, tents, roofing material, blankets, mattresses, medicine, water and food) to those affected. Furthermore, heavy equipment has been provided for rehabilitation of roads and bridges, and temporary houses are being constructed in the affected areas. Finally, the government continues to strengthen mitigation measures such as improvements of river bed and reconstruction of dikes." --OCHA Geneva <, contributed by C. W. Gilbert <


Reuters reports that the Australian government has cut back its $ 30 million (Australian) relief effort because rains since December have begun to generate 'bush foods', reducing the number of people needing assistance from 70,000 to 54,000. An earlier report stated that almost one million of the country's 4.3 million population faced inadequate food supplies and 75 have died.


Reuters reports 60 dead and a budding cholera epidemic following heavy storms in Monkotoro near the Peruvian -- Bolivian border. The international aid group CARE is providing local relief to stop the epidemic from spreading.


The Associated Press reports parts of Lima under three feet of water as the Huaycoloro River broke its banks. The adobe buildings of Lima are vulnerable to collapse during such flooding.


The Associated Press reports 5.14 inches in Los Angeles with up to four inches expected. In Ventura County, the town of La Conchita is awash in a foot of mud. Several coastal roads and AMTRAK were disrupted.


Dolly Aglay of Reuters reports that the Philippines expect heavy rainfall to follow the end of the current ENSO event in June; more typhoons than usual will drop heavy rain from July to September as the region goes into a La Nina cold phase.

Aricultural production is expected to drop 12.72 % for rice, 8.7 % for corn, leaving zero growth for agriculture this year.


Reuters reported four dead and 800 displaced as heavy rains (2.2 inches) hit Tijuana on Monday.


Environmental Newswire reports 250 brush fires on Borneo appear to be continuing without control.


Environmental Newswire reports the president of Honduras has declared a "provisional" state of emergency following ENSO related droughts and floods.


"Why have the Trade Winds slackened? Why is it overcast here in Panama, Why is it suddenly raining in Mauritania and Senegal? Why have the rains returned to the Guianas?

Because of a major low pressure area now passing east of North America. The one that cause all those tornadoes in Florida. Oh yeah, how do you figure that? simple. That low is at 992 mb. We here in Panama are at 1012 mb. The Huge Atlantic High is at 1024 mb. This is the mass of dry air that sits on top of Central America, Northwestern South America and West Africa at this time of the year ("Our Dry Season") Air Pressure "flows downhill" (wind). Thus the Atlantic High becomes distorted and the normal flow The trade winds!!) from it to the Intertropical Convergence Zone (low pressure) slacken and go north. So?

The ITCZ then reforms between the bulge of South America and the bulge of Africa. It"moves up". Thus rain returns to almost 6 degrees north and clouds to 9 degrees north (Panama). The drought in west Africa gets a break and it rains in Eastern Venezuela and Surinam. But no such distortion is occuring over the Indian sub continent nor over the Indian Ocean so All is DRY down until good old Madagascar where the ITCZ is pouring it on. Aussies will rejoice with the reformation of the low pressure over Indonesia. Darwin is wet....!!!!"--Neal Smith <


"Noam Shany of Cardiff, California, recently reported to me some seabird observations he made while aboard the Scripps Institution of Oceanography research vessel Melville from 31 December through 15 January 1998, when it was conducting geophysical research between Callao, Peru and Valparaiso, Chile, along the Peru-Chile Trench. He said they sighted Waved Albatross (Diomedea irrorata) further south than expected-- 33 degrees South, which is 14 degrees further south than the southern boundary of its range off Arica in northern Chile. Also, Swallow-tailed Gulls (Larus furcatus) were seen in large numbers as far south as Valparaiso. This is within their range but sightings considered rare off Chile from Arica south to Algarrobo (Araya & Chester). Peruvian Terns (Sterna lorata), usually found inshore and not generally considered an open-ocean pelagic species (see Harrison, Parker et al, Araya and Chester), were common as far as 70 km offshore where they were seen consistently perched on floating driftwood. Also seen were large numbers of Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels (Oceanodroma tethys) and an unusual occurrence of the Atlantic species Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). Numerous dolphinfish, (Coryphaena hippurus), were landed during the trip and stomach contents examined of 41 individuals. Of these, 40 stomachs were empty, and the only one that contained food had only a few crab larvae. Seabirds sighted on the trip included: Waved, Salvin's(Shy), Grey-headed, Buller's, Wandering, and Black-browed Albatrosses; White-chinned, Kermadec, de Fellipe's, Stejneger's, Cape, Gray, and Juan Fernandez petrels; Ringed(Hornby's), Markham's (sooty), Elliot's(white vented), Wedge- rumped, Band-rumped, and Wilson's Storm Petrels; Sooty, Pink-footed, Bullers, and Manx shearwaters; Long-tailed, Parasitic, and Pomarine Jaegers; South Polar and Chilean Skuas; Grey, Band-tailed, Sabines, Kelp, Swallowtail, Franklin, and Laughing Gulls; Humboldt Penguin; Masked, Peruvian, and Blue-footed Boobies; Red-billed and Red-tailed Tropicbird; Peruvian Pelican; Inca, Elegant, Common, South American, Peruvian, and Sooty Terns; and Red- legged, Guanay, and Neotropic Cormorant.-- Susan Smith <


David Koop, reporting on for The Associated Press, reports that ENSO rains in northern Peru have created what is now Peru's second largest lake, in the northern Sechura Desert. President Fujimoro of Peru estimated its size as 25 x 185 miles and 33 feet <


The Associated Press reports more than 22,000 homes flooded and $40 million in damage in southern Russia near the Azov Sea, following snow melt.


Oscar Musibay of the The Associated Press reported two police dead at the Cuyama River near Santa Maria, one dead in Orange County, and two dead in Claremont, in the latest storm to hit California. Two tornadoes hit Huntington Beach and Long Beach, but did little damage. Hundreds of homes remain threatened by landslides.

Rainfall for February in Los Angeles is close to the February 1884 record of 13.37 inches. San Francisco had 38.61 inches, a hundred-year record. <


CNN reports that extreme temperatures during a recent heatwave may have led to the failure of electric cables to Auckland, leading to a complete blackout of the city which has lasted five days and is expected to continue until 8 March. Lack of street lights and electricity have led to slowing of traffic, limited business, and rotting food, damage totaling tens of millions of dollars, and perhaps a 0.2 percent cut in the country's economic growth.


Reuters reports that the North Korean maize crop has failed and that rice production is also greatly diminished.


Xinhua reports that over 8,000 have left their homes after heavy rains led to flooding of the rivers Parana, Paraguay and Uruguay .


CNN reports that Ica in Peru's desert has been devastated by flooding, with over 5,000 shanties destroyed and the city coated with up to three feet of mud. Two hundred cases of cholera have occurred. The Ica River remains high. High temperatures, broken sewage mains and lack of running water raise the prospect of continued health problems.


State: California and Oregon: Moon jellies and sea nettles Aurelia sp & Chrysaora fuscescens: "Since last September there has been an unusual almost total absence of the medusae of both species of jellies along the Pacific Coast. In "normal" years there always some to be seen and frequently in the fall and early winter there may be huge blooms of Chrysaora along the coast of California and Oregon. Biologists at all CA and OR public aquariums and research institutes have been unsuccessfully searching for jelly medusae of either species."--David C. Powell <


"According to NOAA's El NinoWatch Advisory for January, tropical El Nino conditions continued strong though January along the U.S. west coast, with sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies similar to those observed in December. The SSTs were 4 to 5 degrees F above normal off northern California and over 5 degrees F above normal off San Francisco and Southern California, and +3 to 4 degrees F above normal off the Pacific Northwest. These warm waters also go deep--60% deeper than the seasonal norm in certain areas. Researchers on the CalCOFI survey that returned February 14 observed exceptionally low abundances of zooplankton, little or no evidence of upwelling, and high water clarity except in areas muddied by heavy rains. This general low productivity and depressed level of forage is expected to have a detrimental effect on survival of winter- and late spring-spawning fishes, and the deep surface mixed layer may have a strong negative impact upon rockfishes and the survival of pinniped pups."--Susan Smith <


"On Feb 25 the New York Times reported that the series of winter storms that swept from the Pacific since the beginning of the month has caused California more than $500 million in damage and prompted Gov. Pete Wilson to declare states of emergencies in nearly two-thirds of California's 58 counties. The recent storm that ended Feb 24 caused rare tornadoes, mudslides and flash flooding that damaged many homes, washed away cars and caused deaths of at least seven people from the central coast south to the Mexican border. According to the National Weather Service, record rainfalls for the month of February were recorded in many California cities including San Francisco, Eureka, San Jose, Monterey, Stockton, Santa Maria, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oxnard and others.. Some southern California cities, including Santa Barbara, Northridge, Chatsworth, and Simi Valley record heaviest rain for any month on record. Periods of record for some of these cities date as far back as 1840-1860s."--Susan Smith <


Nelson Graves of Reuters reports that smog from 1,000 Indonesian forest fires is once again a problem in Malaysia's states of Sabah and Sarawak but Malaysian government officials downplayed its significance..


Reuters reports that up to 26 inches of snow fell on Salt Lake City, closing the airport and slowing road travel on Wednesday.


"We have recorded high mortality rates of northern elephant seal pups at the Point Reyes, California, colony. Mortality rate of pups is approaching 90%. Pups and adults are being washed off beaches by high seas, high tides and elevated sea levels. Sand removal is significant from colony beaches. A boat pier broke up and landed in one colony causing some mortality and injury."--Sarah Allen <SARAH_ALLEN@NPS.GOV


Piura, northern Peru: Fourteen have died in all of Piura, 1,800 houses have been destroyed and 3,550 damaged. While agriculture has been almost abandoned, trees are growing rapidly, restoring forests. Food such as rice, sugar and oil are in short supply as is kerosene for cooking. Forty percent of roads are damaged.--based on a report by VIA Fenomeno del NINO <


"On February 26, I saw on TV a storm in Santiago, Chile, where the strong winds uprooted trees, broke window panes in high rise buildings, created a dust storm and then it rained with lighting and thunder. This was very unusual for the time of the year."--Manuel Plenge <


Environmental Newswire reports that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes that bleaching and high ocean temperatures may be threatening the Great Barrier Reef because of ENSO-generated conditions--Environmental Newswire <


"Here are some changes in the weather on the central Oregon Coast this year perhaps due to EL NINO. There has been more thunder this year then all the previous four years we have lived here combined.

We go to a local lighthouse to eat our breakfast at least four mornings a week to watch for the local whales which disappeared about August 19 th when the warm water arrived off the coast. There have been no freezing night-time temperatures this year on my gauge. 96 & 97 January lows were 23 but 98 was 35. For the first time we have seen flying insects and I was bitten by a bug for the first time in the five years we have lived here.

Two warm water turtles were picked up and taken to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for rehab. before being sent to San Diego for release.

I realize these facts are not scientific data but do represent changes for the Newport Oregon area."--Margaret Roehmer <


Los Angeles: "From 2/12/98 to 2/21/98, I had migraine headaches that did not respond to normal migraine headache medicine. I saw my neurologist today. He suffers from migraines too. He said that he had a flare up around the same time and that he saw over 20 of his migraine patients with similar flare-ups, many of whom said their migraine medicine had stopped working. He thinks El Nino may be the cause and is waiting to see what happens when the next storm hits. He thinks it may be changes in barometric pressure, but isn't sure. He thought it may be allergies, but nothing is in bloom at this time. (However, I heard of a television report which stated that because of all the rain, the desert is in full bloom.)"--Cheryl D. Nelson <


Del Norte and Humboldt counties: "Brown Pelicans occurred in unusually large numbers in northern California during November and December 1997. Over 2,000 pelicans were counted at roost sites in Del Norte and Humboldt County during late November. Less than 20 were counted in this same region during a similar survey in November 1987. The last high count of pelicans in Del Norte County was 255 birds on Castle Rock NWR on 21 December 1997. Only small numbers of stragglers have been seen in the region during January and February. Of interest now are the relatively large numbers of Heermann's Gulls in the region. Groups of up to 30 birds have been seen scavenging in parking lots near the Crescent City Harbor. Heermann's gulls are also being reported in Oregon." --Deborah Jaques <


Michael Byrnes of Reuters reported that previous El Nino events are now thought to be linked to influenza outbreaks and to have triggered plagues and revolutions in the past, being responsible in part for the French Revolution, the Irish Potato Famine, and the Black Death of the 14th century. Richard Grove, speaking at the start of the El Nino History and Crisis conference at the Australian National University, linked the 1787-88 ENSO with the French Revolution, through crop failures in 1785 and 1788.

Influenza outbreaks between 1557 and 1900 appear associated with ENSO events, as are smallpox and malaria. 17th century ENSO events may have caused 50 % mortality in Java and other areas through malaria. ENSO droughts resulting from monsoon failure led to major famines. The strong 1845 event produced "peculiar weather conditions" in Ireland, perhaps triggering the potato blight.


"Again so many things are happening in NW Peru and other parts of the country with torrential rains, swollen rivers, landslides, etc., that it is everyday news but not necessarily in the newspaper front pages. However, TV stations are showing images of a huge lake that has formed in the Sechura desert (Dept. Piura). It is called 'La Niña.' They report that it is approximately 300 kms long x 40 kms wide. In places it is 10 m deep. This would make it the second largest lake after Lake Junín. Speculation says that it will not dry up until sometime in the 1999/2000. Although I do not know of any ornithologist in the area, on TV I have seen flamingos, cormorants (P. brasilianus), shorebirds, and gulls (majority probably L. pipixcan). The gulls are frequenting city dumps in greater numbers than in normal years, probably for lack of adequate food in our now warm ocean waters. As the northern migration should be starting I would suggest that North American ornithologists evaluate populations of all Charadriiformes migrants. Hopefully there is not a reduction in the populations due to lack of proper food in their wintering range.

Part of Lima was recently flooded when a landslides in the lower part of the Rímac valley came down a gulch, and flowed into an aqueduct that promptly clogged up. The aqueduct overflowed and the muddy waters found a highway and streets to flow all the way to nearly the back of the Presidential Palace. Recently more landslides occurred in the lower part of the valley and along with small towns the Universidad de la Cantuta was partly flooded (Km 34 east of Lima).

Cholera seems to be on the increase for lack of potable water. Mud of the floods is drying up in places creating dust which cause respiratory illness, allergies and probably other symptoms. The government is disinfecting flooded areas trying to prevent disease and it is distributing pamphlets on how to avoid or cure conjunctivitis. Due to the huge area affected by El Niño it is impossible cover all areas."--Manuel Plenge <


The Environmental News Network reports that Indonesia plans to seed clouds over East Kalimantan province to produce rain to stop the fires that are again producing smoke and smog over parts of Asia. Also 16 orangutans were rescued from fires in Borneo.


Reuters reports that the National Allergy Bureau predicts that mild winter conditions in the east and rain in the southeast are likely to generate bumper crops of pollen and mold for allergy sufferers this year.


"This morning was heralded by the return of the Varied Thrush "dawn chorus" on the Mendenhall Peninsula overlooking Auke Bay. At least 5 different individuals singing at 06:45 - 07:00 around the neighborhood. This is kinda cool since there is no question (?!) that this was the first day for singing by this species in this area; I have been listening for them for the last week or so on a daily basis in the early mornings. That means they were either already here but didn't sing until today, OR that yesterday +/or last night a "wave" of them arrived and immediately started setting up their territories.

Either way, this is clearly (?!) another ENSO 98 signal, based on my records of first singing for Varied Thrush at Auke Bay. Varied Thrush dates of first "singing": a two week spread, except for ENSO 1998: 2/27/98; versus 3/20/94; 3/21/92; 3/30/97; 4/2/95; 4/7/96

Also, for Blue Grouse dates of first "hooting": only a one week spread, except for ENSO 1998 (based on Bruce Wright hearing them last weekend): 2/22/98 (Bruce Wright); 3/28/94; 3/30/97; 4/1/95; 4/3/96" -- --Gus VanVliet < at


The Los Angeles Times reports that the Metropolitan Water District covering 16 million people in six counties of southern California has been able to maintain water supplies because of pre ENSO planning, such as identifying systems that might suffer from heavy runoff. Several areas of water main had their protective soil layers washed away; repairs are estimated to cost $400 K. However, ENSO runoff has forced a leak in the California Aqueduct that moves water from northern to southern California. Repairs will take one to two months and water supplies are not expected to be affected.


Xinhua reports that two-thirds of California's 58 counties were named as federal disaster zones, following the death of seven people and damage estimated at $ 500 million caused by ENSO storms. Nevertheless damage to date is far less than that of the 1994 earthquake, which killed 61 and caused more than more than 10 billion dollars in damage. Associated Press reported ENSO-generated storm runoff has swamped sewage treatment plants along the California coast, contaminating miles of beaches, including all 35 miles of beaches in Los Angeles County. Similar contamination has occurred off San Francisco.


Reuters reports that U.S. planes are providing food transport as part of the United Nations World Food Programme in Kenya, using airdrops to villages still isolated following four months of heavy rains led to flooding. Belgium, Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway are also supplying planes, boats or financial support. Over half a million people remain stranded and dependent on food from relief efforts.


Reuters reports 40 dead following tornadoes that swept across Florida with winds of up to 250 mph last Monday. At least 265 were injured; damage exceeded $67 million.


Xinhua reports that Vietnam's agricultural production is down after drought brought on by an early end to the rain season, leaving rainfall 30 to 70 % below normal. Reduced stream flow has led to saltwater inflow which in turn has caused salinization of soil. Vietnam's main source of electricity comes from hydropower which as yet remains unaffected.


"El Nino's effects were strongly felt in Detroit during the month of February, 1998. The average monthly temperature was 36.7 degrees Fahrenheit - 11.3 degrees above normal, which makes this the second warmest February here in approximately 120 years.

February, 1998 was also the least snowiest February on record, with only a trace of snow falling (normal snowfall is 8.9 inches). Precipitation, though, was well above normal, with 3.60 inches falling, compared to a normal of 1.74 inches. This included a record 2.24 inch rainfall on 17 February, which caused flooding in our area.

On a larger scale, we have yet to record a temperature below ten degrees Fahrenheit this winter - the first time that we have ever not had a single number temperature in December, January, and February. As for daily temperature departures from normal, we only had four below-normal days here during this period. Finally, February, 1998 is only the second winter month ever here not to record measurable snow (the other was December, 1889)."-- Paul Gross <


CNN reports that 1,500 people have been forced from their homes in Dixie County. Flooding has caused $ 4 million in damage and forced 270 people to evacuate.



Interim Results of a Study on The Economic Value of Haze Damages in SE Asia

"Since October 1997, WWF-Indonesia and EEPSEA (1) have been undertaking a study to assess the economic value of the damage caused by the 1997 haze. The work is carried out by WWF members and academic researchers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, with methodological advice from international resource persons. The purpose of the study is to estimate the economic value of losses caused by forest fires and haze. A briefing note explaining the purpose and coverage of the study was submitted to ASEAN in December 1997.

This report presents estimates of short-term haze-related damages in the three countries. It does not include the additional damages suffered by Indonesia as the direct result of the fires (e.g. loss of plantation crops and timber). These are the subject of ongoing study and will be included in a subsequent report.

Haze-Related Damages from the 1997 Forest Fires (in millions)


















Short-Term Health Damages








Industrial Production Losses
















Airline & Airport Losses
















Cloud Seeding
















  Notes to the Table: N = negligible or not applicable; U= unknown: data unavailable " --SEA-SPAN List <


Jenny Grant, China Morning Post, reports that East Kalimantan is suffering from a shortage or even absence of water for drinking and agriculture, with saltwater intrusion up to 60 km inshore in rivers. Bottled water is economically out of the reach of many inhabitants. Rice prices have doubled since last year. Contaminated water supplies raise the spectre of outbreaks of water-borne diseases.


United Press International reports that a study conducted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) found that Indonesia's four months of fires have equaled an entire year's carbon dioxide release by all of Europe.


Kompas reports that about 8,000 inhabitants of four villages in East Kalimantan lack food following the ENSO drought. Available rice is priced out of the reach of villagers.


The Washington Post reports dozens of fire, many set to clear land cheaply, have again flared up in Borneo.


The National reports Papua New Guinea's foreign exchange reserves are sufficient for only two months of imports, having fallen from K800 to K 300 as the ongoing drought closed mines that generate much of PNG's exports. The start of the wet season is expected to improve the siutation.


"Lima had 33 degrees celsius. Marcona, near Nazca had 40 degrees, but with a thermic sensation of 45. From southern Dept. Lima on the coast to Chilean border there is a drought. It keeps raining heavily in from Depts. Tumbes and Piura through Trujillo south to just north of the Dept. Lima. Roads are again impassable in multiple places. In the city of Cajamarca a landslide inundated a resort hotel, villages and reached the 'Baños del Inca' (Inca baths). In Cuzco below Macchu Picchu a landslide blocked the Vilcanota river which backup and submerged the Macchu Picchu hydroelectric power plant. People are still being rescued from the forested mountains. The lack of electricity will have a strong impact in three southern departments. The rio Huallaga has inundated agricultural lowlands near Tocache, Tarapoto and other localities.

People are not going to the beaches in droves on the weekends as is usual. Apparently they are trying to avoid the conjunctivitis epidemic.

Saw on TV parts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, heavily inundated. In parts the river crested 6 m above normal."-- Manuel Plenge <


Peruvian oceanographers report that the oceanographic anomalies characteristic of ENSO began to diminish in the second week of February in the southern and central parts of Peru. Rains are confined to the north and to the Andes, the latter leading to coastal flooding as rivers burst their banks. Mackerel are becoming common off northcentral Peru and hake have returned to their normal fishery areas. Dorado are more common off central Peru.--IMARPE <


Antara reports that theacidity of the Barito river has fallen to pH2.5 -- pH3, below the potable limit of pH5, because of acid from forest fires on Kalimantan island. Other rivers in Central Kalimantan are also affected.


The governor of Irian Jaya claims the area no longer faces a food shortage, according to reports in Antara. Relief operations and use of traditional foods have eased the crisis.


Reuters reports at least 17 dead following a mudslide on Ecuador's coast, raising the human toll to 150 so far.

The Associated Press reports that a landslide from ENSO rains cracked the main pipeline moving oil to its west coast, causing an explosion that killed 11 and dumped 8,000 barrels of crude into a river.


XINHUA reports that upper Yangtze River is at its lowest in 36 years, leading to dredging to maintain shipping channels, while lower down the river, water levels remain high. Jin Xingping, of the Yangtze River Hydrological Bureau, believes that the upper Yangtze shows little ENSO effect, while lower down there is typically increased rainfall and runoff.


XINHUA reports 100 dead in flash floods in southwestern Pakistan, with another 1,200 people missing following 36 hours of heavy rain.


The Peruvian Institute of Fisheries Investigations (Instituto Peruano de Investigaciones Pesqueras ) has reported juvenile ancheveta schools in the San Juan (Ica) y Punta de Chala (Arequipa) areas. IMARPE (The Peruvian Marine Institute) also reports schools between Tambo de Mora and Huacho. It appears that an anchoveta fishery may reopen in April once the fish become large enough. Sea temperatures are lowering to normal levels of 18 - 21 C


Reuters reports three dead and 5,000 displaced in southeastern Brazil after five days of heavy rain.


"The months-long stretch of dry weather across Hawaii continued in February, with most sites receiving less than half the average amount of rainfall, the National Weather Service said Monday. Of the 73 sites reporting rainfall for February, 63 reported totals that were less than half the average.

On Maui, the flow of the Wailoa Ditch was down to 45 million gallons a day this morning, a drop of 7 mgd since the day before. Garret Hew of East Maui Irrigation said, ``I think the board (of water supply) was very prudent'' when it decided last week not to suspend the drought emergency Upcountry.It is true that continuing light rains have filled reservoirs and cut demand -- it was 5.2 million gallons Monday, well within the the 10 percent cutback order. And Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar has called back its full planting crews. Two weeks ago, they were put on ``no work offered'' status because there was not enough water available to plant some of the higher fields. But the longer term outlook remains poor. Hew said the rapid fall of the ditch levels means ``obviously the springs (which feed the ditch) are not as charged'' as normal by steady rains in the East Maui watershed.

A typical Hawaii February has showers brought by trade winds, the NWS said. But the trade winds last month were weak or nonexistent because of El Nino, thus causing the low rainfall totals. Most sites included in a weather service survey reported less than 35 percent of the total average rainfall for February.

On Maui, Lahainaluna received .03 inches of rain, or 1 percent its normal 2.7 inches, while Kihei received .09 inches, or 4 percent its normal 2.2 inches.On the Big Island, Pahala received about .07 inches, or 1 percent of its normal 6.1 inches. Parts of both Maui and Hawaii are under drought emergencies, with residents ordered to cut water usage by 10 percent.

Honolulu received .21 inches, or 10 percent of its normal 2.2 inches. But Waianae received only .11 inches, or 5 percent of its normal 2.3 inches. All this followed on a dry January, in Hilo the driest on record."--Blazing Tattles < and <


The Environmental News Network reports that more moderate temperatures have lowered home heating and cooling energy needs 25.1 % in the first two month of 1998.


According to Xinhua, 2.2 percent of Peru's cropland was destroyed by the current ENSO event, mostly in the north, at a loss of 74 million dollars. The human impact is over 200 dead and 310,937 displaced or otherwise affected.


"Cause of Sea Lion Deaths Still Unknown This is the sixth in a series of written updates on the New Zealand sea lion mass mortality event. The updates will be issued by the Department of Conservation on a regular basis as new information comes to hand, and will also be available on its website, "".

The cause of the deaths of the threatened New Zealand sea lions is still unknown, the Department of Conservation says.

DOC spokesperson Mike Donoghue said preliminary results from the Institute of Virology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, had been received. The tests proved negative for seal herpes viruses, and are, so far, inconclusive for other types of viruses known to affect seals, including morbilliviruses. The lab will need another 4-6 weeks before any definitive conclusions could be drawn.

Investigations at Massey University's Cetacean Investigation Centre into the cause of the mystery deaths were continuing. Some strains of pathogenic bacteria, including several kinds of Salmonella, had been found in samples. "No single bacterium identified in the test results to date is a strong candidate for causing all the observed deaths."

DOC and Massey University are sending further samples to The Netherlands and may consider other overseas laboratories.

The mystery disease has killed at least 53 percent of this year's pup production (over 1600 pups) and is estimated to have killed at least 20 percent of the adult population. The total loss of adult female sea lions could not be estimated with confidence until at least the next breeding season in December and, possibly, until three years of pup production had been monitored." [It is interesting to note that the veterinarians at the Massey University have not, apparently, posted the gross and histological lesions presumeably noted in the various sea lions delivered to them. There seems to have been a consensus that the widespread deaths were due to an infective agent. Would it be possible for someone in the know to share with us what the lesions were, how various conditions were ruled out, and the reasons for searching for an infective cause. -- Mod.MHJ].--Martin Hugh-Jones < via ProMED-mail <


"This is a report that is entirely anecdotal, and probably 100% coincidental, besides. However, it's an observation borne of living in the same place for 15 years, so maybe if stirred into the pot with some real data it might mean something.

The winter in Utah (central intermountain west) was dominated by zonal weather patterns coming more or less from the direct west (San Francisco's left-over storms) rather than the gulf of Alaska/ pacific NW northwesterly flows. This has resulted in a much warmer than usual winter, with rain in the valleys, and snow of much higher density than usual (8-10% vs 5-8%)-- for the most part. The winter was also characterized by split flows, with the bulk of moisture frequently going south of the mountains of N. Utah and higher snowfalls in the central and southern part of the state.

It seems like the weather pattern has shifted for the spring, though. We are now getting more NW flows. NW flows typically hit the Salt Lake valley after passing over the Great Salt Lake. Because it has been such a warm winter, the lake is warmer than is usual for this time of year. This is resulting in significant lake effect snows in the Wasatch mountains just east of Salt Lake City (orographic uplift of the now-supersaturated air results in heavy accumulations on the eastern side of the range).

Here's the conjectural part: in 1983, which was the last big El Nino year, the weather pattern was very similar, with a fairly unremarkable early season winter, and a spring that just wouldn't quit being winter. In that year, we had cooler temperatures and significant and frequent snowfalls in the mountains (cold and rainy in the valleys) up until the last week of May (I remember skiing in 2 ft of new snow on May 13). The kicker that year was that the temperatures suddenly warmed from low 40's in the mountains to mid-60's the last week of May, resulting in floods when the entire season's snowpack melted in the span of 3-4 weeks rather than 6-8 weeks. It will be interesting to see what spring of 1998 is like here..."--Christine Cline <


Reuters reports five dead after flooding caused by major storms hit from Louisiana to Georgia. Toronadoes in Florida destroyed ten homes but did not kill anyone.


Reuters reports that Honduras on Monday declared a state of emergency as an ENSO-generated drought left low levels in lakes used for hydroelectric generation.


High temperatures and sunshine are forcing dog sled teams to run at night on the Iditarod Race from Anchorage to Nome. Dog teams work best and avoid overheating at temperatures below 0 F. Some mushers are using reflective doggie jackets to keep huskeys from overheating. --David Duffy <


Illegal logging, combined with forest fires and record cold associated with El Nino, are threatening Mexico's wintering poulations of monarch butterflies, with up to 12 inches of dead butterflies covering the ground in some areas. Heavy logging is removing monarch wintering habitat.


The Associated Press reports that the past January and February were the warmest and wettest in U.S. history with temperatures at 37.5 F as opposed to the normal 32.1 and an average 6.01 inches of rain, instead of 4.05 inches. March and April are expected to continue the pattern.


The Associated Press reports that the mild winter associated with El Nino ended with a major snowstorm that left 14 dead, almost half a million without power and record lows ranging from 41 F below in Worhtington WI to 13 in Harrison, AR . Snow drifts piled to 12 feet in Iowa following 15 inches of snow. Snow falls were 19 inches in Indiana and 12 in Wisconsin. Roads were impassible throughout the area. Around Chicago, 275,000 homes and businesses lost power, as did 30,000 in Wisconsin and 135,000 in northern Indiana.


Greg Frost of Reuters reports that despite $500 million in property damage (relative to a $35 billion construction sector) and $90.8 million to date in damage to the $25 billion agricultural sector, this El Nino had minor impact in the state's $1.1 trillion economy. In comparison, the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge quakes cost $26 billion.


Asociated Press reported that rains from the same weather system that dumped snow on the Midwest left record rainfalls and record highs in the Northeast . Two people died in traffic accidents.


Reuters reports that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle claimed ``Monica Lewinsky is the legislative equivalent of El Nino with a lot of Republicans, If they wanted to get things done, they could do them. There is nothing that prevents them from doing it. (The Lewinsky scandal) is just a convenient excuse like El Nino seems to be in other parts of the country as we try to explain away strange happenings,'' (It was not clear if the Special Prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, would seek to call El Nino before a grand jury to determine if the weather phenomenon is seeking to obstruct on-going investigations. As usual, El Nino had no comment. Eds.)


Panama Canal officials have lowered the water level to 39 feet as a response to an El Nino-associated drought, according to The Associated Press. Rainfall is the lowest in 84 years.


CNN reports farmers are desperately trying to save peach, blueberry and strawberry crops throughout the south as temperatures went to 19 F in Nashville TN and 24 in Meridian MI. Another night of record lows is expected.


CNN reports that Albany GA remains flooded, with the crest on the Flint River not expected on Saturday. Rescue operations continued through yesterday, removing 80 more people from the area. Two thousand have already been evacuated. Albany also suffered major flooding in 1994, killing 31 people.


Africa News Service (Distributed by Africa News Online) reports the Uganda rainy season is expected to be normal, without the heavy rains and floods that occurred during the last El Nino event. Officials expect an occurrence of La Nina may lead to dry conditions later in the year.


The Associated Press reports that two billion dollars will be needed to restore Ecuador's infrastructure, at the same time low oil prices have reduced government income by $500 million. Approximately 300,000 acres of crops have been flooded, another 500,000 acres remain unplanted.


The Associated Press reports that Castroville, California has canceled its annual Artichoke Festival because heavy rains ruined 40% of the crop, 80% of the U.S. harvest.


CNN reports that ENSO is expected to increase the chance of bubonic plague in California, where heavy rains had increased vegetation and rodent populations, leading to increased flea populations, the vectors of plague. Warmer winter temperatures in the U.S. may also have allowed larger mosquito populations to overwinter, raising the spectre of encephalitis, malaria and dengue fever. Hanta virus which first came to light following an earlier El Nino, may also make a resurgence in the southwest, as Peromyscus populations respond to increased food.


Drought has led to widespread fires and to crop failures that threaten 40,000 Yanomani Indians with starvation. Twenty percent of Roraima (21,600 square miles) has burned already as the drought continues.--based on a report by EARTHALERT <


Reuters reports that Zimbabwe expects maize to be down 19 % compared with last year, despite a 25 % reduction in plantings implemented because of a drought forecast for the last growing season.


"Willapa Bay, Gray's Harbor: (about 47N about 124W). An unusual harmful algal blooms event (paralytic shellfish poisoning) was observed beginning Nov. 15 and ending in early December. This is the first measurement of high levels of toxin in WA coast oysters in November. Usually harmful algal bloom events are no longer observed after October of any given year."


"Excerpts from the NOAA/NESDIS El Nino Watch Advisory 98-2 for February 1998: Coastal sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies remained strongly positive along the U.S. west coast in February. Most coastal waters off western U.S. were 4 degrees F above normal, with a small area off northern Baja California Mexico that was 5 degrees F above normal. The predominately warm southerly winds associated with February storms resulted in anomalously strong downwelling in coastal waters from central California north to Canada. Observers on research cruises off California in February noted very low zooplankton abundance and a lack of upwelling. Warm water conditions off southern California have resulted in the continued presence of yellowtail, Seriola lalandi. Fishing for this species usually does not begin until April or May, yet anglers have already landed 10,000 since the beginning of January. Early spawning of anchovy and sardine was noted throughout the southern California Bight in February."--SUSAN SMITH <


"Here in Belo Horizonte we're living a real epidemic of Dengue Fever. The numbers of cases are just increasing and only yesterday we've got 369 new cases confirmed. The risk of Yellow Fever that occurs in nearby states and the fear of the hemorrhagic type of Dengue is forcing the State to organize an war-like operation against _Aedes aegypti_. In the ER's we're admitting about 3-4 (10%) suspected cases per doctor per day. Until now, there are 2943 confirmed and 4687 suspected cases in the city and the disease that began in a few restricted areas is just spreading through all the town."--Alexandre Moura < VIA


"According to El Comercio (3/20) 12 cases of cholera have been reported in the coastal areas of Ecuador. These cases are attributed to climatic events related to El Nino. Sixty six teams of health workers are involved in prevention in the five coastal provinces and on the border with Peru a country that has reported 8,000 cases. There is no source given for this last statement."--Abramo Ottolenghi < VIA


Scripps Howard reporter Maggie O'Kane reports that Tibet has experienced one of the most severe winters and heaviest snow falls in its history. Ten million livestock are dead and 300,000 herders have become dependent on relief supplies brought by the Chinese army.--VIA Merritt Clifton <


"Field notes for Palmyra, Baker, Howland and Johnston Islands: USFWS team arrived Feb. 26 on Palmyra Atoll where severe drought has blanched the outer fronds of the coconut trees. This island normally receives about 100 inches of rain per year. Smaller than usual numbers of sooty terns nesting (10k). En route to Baker Island, sea surface temperature 85F. Baker Island (0. 14 N x 176. 28W) and Howland Island (0 48.N, 176.38 W), hosting over a million sooty terns just beginning to breed on March 10. Boobies and frigatebirds were also on eggs. These islands which are normally very dry were lush and green. Bird observations suggest that food sources are present and may signal a diminution of excessively hot water, tho air temperatures were 94F in the shade and 110F in full sun".--Mark Rauzon <


Date: 27.02.1998 - 18.03.1998, area south of Etosha National Park and along the rivers of Kuiseb, Swakop and Ugab: "I'm a student of Geography at the University of Regensburg and recently we went on a field trip to Namibia with our Professor, Mr. Klaus Heine. He is very familiar with the local climatic and geomorphological conditions there, and according to his experience and our observations the land currently suffers from a severe lack of precipitation. Although we went to Namibia during the actual rain season, the land look dry as if we were right in the middle of the dry season. According to the statements of some farmers down there and to newspaper articles and headlines, rain is extremely necessary and desperately sought for."--Marcus Aunkofer <


Bahia Kino, Sonora: "While bird-watching along coast I found fresh carcasses (death within 48 hours based on lack of predation and lack of maggots) as follows (in a 2 km stretch): 3 eared or horned grebes (id ?), 1 western grebe, 6 Brown pelicans, 3 loons (common or Pacific?), 1 Blue-footed booby, 1 dolphin/small pilot whale (i.d.?), 1 small sea lion (species ?), Some of mortality may be due to by-catch in fishing nets as local fishers said they do catch birds, but they said that they are seeing more dead birds floating around, and that they are catching less fish this year."--Dusty Becker AND "This sounds similar to the numbers of dead seabirds Kathy Molina and I have been finding at El Golfo de Santa Clara at the northern end of the Sonora, Mexico, coast (though we haven't walked as much of the beach). Most carcasses there in February 1998 were Pacific Loons, Common Loons, and Western Grebes, but we've also found (over the past 2-3 years) Clark's and Eared grebes, Blue-footed and Brown boobies, Brown Pelicans, Surf Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers and even an American Coot. I agree that fishing nets seem to be a likely explanation, and we have the impression that the numbers of beached birds this past winter haven't been significantly higher than previous years (i.e. no obvious "El Nino" peak in mortality). Dan Anderson ( would be very interested in any band numbers you might have obtained from dead Brown Pelicans."-- Kimball L. Garrett <


The Associated Press reports that Albany GA is beginning to re-emerge from the swollen Flint River with 500 houses damaged and 11,000 forced to evacuate.


"The previous day temperature in Lima reached 33.8 degrees Celsius with a thermal sensation of 38, the highest ever. The rains continue in northern Peru. The río Piura collapsed the iron bridge when it reached 4000 m3/second. A second bridge collapsed yesterday with several vehicles and pedestrians. There are several dead and probably about 20/30 missing. Other rivers continue flooding different areas on the coast. In the Dept. Cuzco, two landslides fell where the río Vilcanota was damned. A third landslide fell on top of the already submerged Macchu Picchu hydroelectric power station. In west central Peru, the río Rímac caused flooding and property damage about 20 km east of Lima. It also continues destroying the Central Highway in the higher parts of the Andes"--Manuel Plenge <


Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin and Reuters report that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow use of federal funds to pay for firefighting operations in the Puna District on the big island of Hawaii. Fires in the Leilani Estates subdivision, south of Hilo and near the Punaluuu Golf Course, Kau District, remain out of control.


The Environmental News Network reports that graduate student at Mississippi State University, William Monfredo, has analyzed climate records suggesting that the tornado season may be milder in the U.S. South during February-July because of El Nino.


Saul Hudson of Reuters reports at least nine drowned and 20 others missing after a bridge collapsed in Piura in northern Peru following weeks of pressure from a flooded river.


Shelby County: "In most El Nino years we have below average precip. and temperatures. November and the first 1/2 of December was like that. January came in wet and cloudy. We had 1 winter storm this winter back on 1/15. Since 1998 began it has been very wet with over 20 inches at my place and mild until last week. We also have had rain this month with 4.5 inches overnight on the 6th. I have the suspicion this will be a cool April and May. However I also think that this will be a hot and dry summer. But this El Nino has had lots of surprises and we shall see what happens."--Eric Hunt <


Off Seward Alaska: "I thought you might like to know the results from the latest GLOBEC/EVOS GAK1 sampling (oceanographic station). It appears that we are seeing a 1 - 2C increase in water temperature from the surface to 250m depth (shelf to bottom) in the Gulf of Alaska. This is astounding and I think the largest anomaly recorded in our history (GAK 1 history). The ocean is reasonably well-mixed which is typical of this time of the year. We go out again in early April. At that time I expect the ocean to be stratifying (due to runoff) and the spring bloom to begin. MY SPECULATION is that this summer will also be anomalously warm again since the ocean is really only to gain heat from the atmosphere over the next few months. One other tentative conclusion is that the anomalous warm waters are not due to an influx of warm water from offshore (e.g., within the Alaska Stream) but probably warm shelf water originating far to the south. AGAIN A SPECULATION. In any case I wonder what the summer will offer biologically."--Tom Weingartner via Stan Senner <


Buchizya Mseteka of Reuters today filed a report based on projections from the Southern African Development Community indicating that maize harvests may be down because of reduced initial plantings in the face of E l Nino as well as late rains in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana and southern Zambia. Excessive rains are expected for much of Tanzania, Malawi, Swaziland and Mozambique, with normal crops for all but Tanzania. However, while import needs are up, the problem is not as great as anticipated. The UN World Food Programme last month had already predicted there would be no catastrophic shortfall.




Earth Alert reports 70 % loss of crops in Namibia because of drought.-- Earth Alert<


San Jose, Costa Rica: 09 N 84 W, air temperature: 29.6 C, "Last maximum air temperature record(34 C in 1992) was broken this year by 02 C, i.e. 34.2 C is the new record for march in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The mean maximum temperature for march is 29.6 C. For our country 1998 is being warmer than 1997."--Luis Alvarado <


"A visit to St Croix Island, Algoa Bay, South Africa was made from 10-12 February to count nesting Jackass Penguins Spheniscus demersus. A count of a little over 5200 active nests was made, just over a quarter of the 19 000 or so expected. In addition, c780 nests had been abandoned at the egg stage. As yet, we do not know the cause of abandonment or the comparatively low number of breeding penguins."--Philip Whittington <


February - March 18/98: Gulf of St Lawrence: Air temperature: -5-12 C. Water temperature: -2-5 C. For the first time in memory there is virtually no ice in the Gulf of St Lawrence, the little that there is can be found packed around Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick The Gulf is one of the two main pupping areas for Harp and Hood seals. Lack of ice and the small floes that do exist may have an impact on this years year class. we MAY see high mortality in the new born pups as they will have to hit the water earlier than they should - not enough blubber reserves to sustain them."--JERRY CONWAY<


Ann Kellan of CNN reports Weather Service forecasts call for the area bounded by New Mexico, Kansas, North Carolina and Florida to be cooler than usual through at least April. The West Coast and Northern Rockies will be warmer. The Pacific Northwest, California, and South West will get heavier rains than usual, a condition that might extend into the Southeast. Drier conditions are expected in the Great Lakes, New England and Dakotas. During May - June New England and the area from Arizona to Montana will have higher temperatures than usual while the center of the country may be cooler, with more rain in the North central area from the Dakotas to Michigan. Hurricanes in the Atlantic should show a second year of below normal activity.


"Looking for some confirmation of the number of cholera cases in Peru reported in my previous post I found in the WHO bulletin (Feb. 27, 1998) the report that in the first four weeks of 1998 2,863 cases with 16 deaths had been reported compared with 174 cases and one death during the same period of 1997. In that report the increase in cases was attributed to El Nino."--Abramo Ottolenghi < VIA ProMED-mail <


Reuters reports that Tanzania, already waterlogged from early El Nino rains is awaiting the start of its normal rainy season. These rains may lead to local flooding or restrict rebuilding of roads, but they are not expected to be as serious as the earlier rains.


The Anchorage Daily News reported that Sitka had its earliest herring 'opener' in history, as he state allowed purse-seiners to take spawning herring.


Reuters reports UNICEF has found major public health problems in parts of northeast Kenya following flooding caused by El Nino rains earlier in the year. Up to half o f children under five are malnourished and malaria is causing mortality. Up to 1.5 Kenyans and another 125,000 Somali refugees are at risk, with only 20 % of the population having access to safe drinking water. The U.S. and Ireland have contributed $212,000 to stop one cholera outbreak. Normal rainfall will begin in April and further flooding may occur, cutting access to the affected areas.


Reuters reports Argentinian and Venezuelan firefighters joined efforts to contain fires in northern Brazil that have already burned 1.5 million acres over the past two months. The dense forest now burning is usually too wet to burn, but has experienced a major El Nino related drought. Rains are not expected until late April.


President Clinton declared the U.S. Marshall Islands a disaster area because of drought since January, making the residents eligible for federal assistance.


The Herald Sun reported that fires continued in New South Wales, the Capitol Territory and Tasmania. Smoke covered Sydney from a fire in Marramarra National Park causing heath problems. A grass fire in Canberra occurred near Parliament. Six fires or more continued in Tasmania.


The Inter Press Service reports that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is observing food shortages in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama because of drought related to ENSO.


The Inter Press Service reports cites a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that Haiti is experiencing food shortages because of an ongoing drought caused by ENSO, while in the adjacent Dominican Republic,heavy rains in the west and northwest damaged crop production.


The Inter Press Service reports cites a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that North Korea is expecting a shortage of food following an ongoing drought.


The Environmental News Network reports El Nino research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere research program provides a 13 -26 % annual return on investment to U.S. agriculture.


The Inter Press Service reports cites a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report that Mongolia has "persistent problems" because of drought associated with El Nino.


Andina reports that Peru will try to use the waters from the large lake that has formed in northern Peru as a result of El Nino rains for agricultural irrigation. Two hundred thousand hectares have been reforested during the present El Nino in the northern desert. --OANNES <


Xinhua and Associated Press report that El Nino may contribute to major flooding in southern China this summer as winter rains have been up to four times normal, affecting 130,000 people and flooding 49 thousand acres of farmland. Four miles of restraining walls along the Yangtze River have already given way; further damage might cut the main railroad between Hong Kong and Beijing. Current water levels are 13 feet above last year's.


Andina reports lowering sea temperatures are accompanying a return to more normal fishery landings of cool water fish like bonito, mackerel, and 'jurel', while warm water species like dorado are becoming rarer.


The Vancouver Sun reports that several decades of data on El Nino show has no effect on runoffs in British Columbia rivers (Elk River, over 67 years; Similkameen River, over 72 years, and the Capilano, over 66 years) despite greater snowfall on coastal mountains, and reduced snow on interior ranges.--based on an email from Eric Taylor < VIA Alan Burger <


The Dow Jones News reported that fish meal production in Peru fell almost 81 % compared to 1997 while fish oil fell 87 %--Fisheries Social Science Network <FISHFOLK@MITVMA.MIT.EDU.


Earth Alert reports that NASA scientists found (as reported for the 1983 ENSO event) that El Nino slowed the planet's rotation by as much as 0.06 milliseconds on 5 February but the planet is picking up speed and days are now only 0.94 milliseconds longer.--< tml.


Reuters reports that the on-going El Nino driven drought has led the government to declare a state of emergency because of "severe and widespread damage". Drinking water is limited, and saltwater is intruding up rivers, preventing use of rivers for irrigation. In the south, food for Native communities is in short supply and forest fires are also occurring, as in neighboring Brazil. Rice plantings have dropped 30,000 acres to 150,000 in the past year. River mining of gold has also stopped as the rivers dried up.


An Instituto del Mar research vessel reported landings of 64 % sardines, 29 % "anchoveta blanca" or "samasa" and only 6 % anchoveta (Engraulis ringens). The anchovy are apparently in breeding condition. Blue, Bryde's and "jorobadas" (humpbacked?) whales were seen feeding on the mixed-species schools.


Borneo Bulletin, Thursday March 26 (edited): "Sabah has been put on a cholera alert after health authorities in Tawau discovered 10 cases and 133 carriers. The current drought season is said to have brought about this dreaded water-born illness. According to Sabah Medical and Health Services acting director Dr. R Meganathan, the 143 people were from the Kalabakan area near the Tawau-Indonesian border and they had been using river water during the current dry weather. All of them have been treated at the Tawau General Hospital but Meganathan said the alert is still on. "Our health officers in the district, as well as other areas experiencing the drought, has been put on alert to monitor for cholera, typhoid and other water-borne diseases in view of the dry spell.""So far we have only detected cholera in the Tawau area which seems to have affected sawmill workers and villagers nearby," he said."--Clyde E. Markon < VIA


CNN reports another winter storm dropped four inches of rain and led to additional landslides.


Xinhua cites Somali radio reports that heavy rains in Somalia has sparked fear of a cholera outbreak in the south part of the country will get out of control. The outbreak has already left 35 dead. Three days of heavy rain cut roads only recently reopened. Flood control structures were destroyed in earlier flooding so the area has few or no controls against flooding if the rains continue. Medicine, rehydration fluids and drinkable water are scare. The scare comes as Mogadishu and surrounding towns appear to have their own cholera outbreaks under control, with only 24 patients still in the main quarantine facility. Last year's flooding left a death toll of 20,000, made 250,000 homeless, and destroyed 60,000 hectares of arable land and 35,000 livestock.


Joyce Liu of Reuters reports that Asian farmers face continued drought as El Nino winds down, posing a threat to crops of coffee, cocoa, sugar, rubber and oil palm, rice and corn . The drought may not break over all of Indonesia before October. Thailand and the Philippines may get a break in June. However, there is a fear that ENSO may delay the onset of the monsoon season. Soil moisture and reservoir levels are already low, so a prolonged drought may be highly damaging.--based on a report from Reuters <


Peru will re-open its anchoveta fishery in the second half of


The Associated Press reports 28 dead as a plane crashed in Piura while evacuating ENSO victims from Tumbes , another town in northern Peru. The pilot maneuvered his plane to avoid crashing in a densely populated shanty town.


The Associated Press reports a mortality of over 80 % in southern sealions off Peru, according to Patricia Majluf of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. At Punta San Juan, 20 to 30 % of the resident population were found dead, many more emigrated. All the young have died.


Reuters reports 5,000 acres burned in 50 fires on Palawan (of 3 million forested acres) over the last six weeks, burning 25 homes and displacing villagers. (The Associated Press reports 12,350 acres burned, up from 3,6700 acres "a few days earlier"). Cloud seeding by the Air Force continues, but much of the Philippines have been a year without rain.


The Associated Press reports dozens of homes burned, leaving 330 homeless on eastern Borneo, near Samarinda. The government estimates that about 315,000 acres have been blackened. The fires have threatened endangered "orangutans, crocodiles, bears, buffaloes and birds" in Kutai National Park.


Xinhua quotes The Nation newspaper as reporting that that fires in Doi Inthanon National Park in northern Thailand have destroyed 2,700 hectares of high altitude virgin forest in the last ten days, but now appear under control. The areas are usually too wet to burn. Recovery will take up to ten years.


Xinhua reports that the Vietnam News quoted a government weather expert as stating water levels were their lowest in 20 years, with increasing salt intrusion in the Mekong Delta and central coast. Despite some recent rains, the rainy season may be delayed by two weeks.


Reuters reports that Sri Lanka may ration water supplies in mid April as reservoirs dry up. The two main reservoirs have 150 days of supply but others are already dry. The May monsoon is expected to break the drought. Seventy-two percent of the country's electric production comes from hydropower . --based on a report from Reuter's Colombo Newsroom <


CNN reports that rare March tornadoes killed two , injured 38, destroyed 500, and damaged over 1,700 houses in southern Minnesota around the towns of St. Peter and Comfrey during unusually warm temperatures linked to El Nino.


The newspaper Hoy of Quito reports eight dead today, drowned or buried in mudslides in Manabi and Loja. The death toll in Ecuador is now 187, with 31 missing, 18,000 displaced, almost 30,000 affected, and almost 7,000 houses damaged. El Nino is expected to diminish starting in May.


"Here's an update to Dr. Wellington's report from December. On a recent trip to the Galapagos archipelago, Andrew Baker and I observed extensive coral bleaching. One benefit was that it was extremely easy to see scattered colonies on the dark basalt backgrounds, making swimming surveys as comprehensive as I have ever experienced. Nearly all corals were bleached to some extent. The most strongly affected species was Porites lobata followed by Pavona clavus, Pavona gigantea and Pavona varians. Other affected species included Psammocora stellata, Diaseris distorta and Cycloseris curvata. Interestingly, the genus most impacted during the 1982-83 ENSO, Pocillopora, seems to be faring quite well. Many Pocillopora colonies exhibited normal pigmentation, while others showed variable amounts of pigmentation loss. In other genera, many colonies exhibited pigment loss on their tops with some pigmented tissues still present along their flanks and in shaded portions. Psammocora exhibited a Range of pigment loss, and was one of the few genera to show distinctive paling. Some Diaseris individuals (at 15m depth) were completely bleached, but many still had pigment remnants in tissues between septae. Most Cycloseris individuals had relatively normal looking tissues on their flanks. Bleached corals were observed in water depths ranging from the surface to 30m. However, bleaching was more extensive in corals shallower than 10-15m depth. A follow-up trip is planned for May." --Joshua Feingold < VIA <


Hong Kong had its wettest year in history, with 133 inches of rain, breaking the 1983 ENSO record.--based on a report by The World Meteorological Organization


The Northern Hemisphere had its warmest February since 1950. --based on a report by The World Meteorological Organization


April to July , southern region of Brazil may experience heavy rainfall while the north, experiencing fort fires, will continue dry.--based on a report by The World Meteorological Organization


The 1998 cyclone season is starting very late, suggesting drought conditions may occur in the area.--based on a report by The World Meteorological Organization.


" Monmouth County, 87 degree high today. This is the highest temperature recorded here ever for the month of March!"--Cheryl Lechtanski <


PRESS RELEASE N&deg;008/98. ENFEN Sea surface temperatures have been decreasing since mid February. The thermocline is at 30 - 140 m depth, having risen 50 m on average since December 1997. Cooler southern waters are reappearing from Pisco to Chimbote in central Peru. Sealevel has fallen to +18 cm in February, down from 28 cm in January and 40 cm in December. Landings of sardine continue low, south of Chimbote. Juvenile sardines are located south of the adults. Hake fishing continues as normal. The reproductive pattern of both anchovy and sardine continues to be different from those observed normally. --based on a report by COMITÉ MULTISECTORIAL ENCARGADO DEL ESTUDIO DEL FENOMENO "EL NIÑO" <


Sixty plus common murres have washed ashore at Unalaska Island in the Aleutians. They show no sign of oiling.--Anchorage Daily News.


"The first male Rufuous Hummingbird arrived (or at least was first noticed!) at my feeders @ 1:15 PM yesterday, 3/30/98 ... it stayed throughout the afternoon. Based on my records, this is the earliest arrival date for a male Rufous Hummingbird at my house at Auke Bay, Alaska (58 degrees N.) ... the previous early date was in 1992 when the species arrived on 3/31 ... the past 5 years, the species first arrived between 9 - 15 April!!! Since I have 10 years of arrival dates (the first three not exactly known, but definitely post-3/31), this is the earliest arrival date for the last decade! Hence, can we conclude that the northern-most breeding avian nectarivore in the world is being affected by El Nino 98???? !!!! Or is this just random chaos!! Rufous Hummingbird arrival times at Auke Bay, Alaska: 3/31/92 4/09/93 4/12/94 4/14/95 4/15/96 4/11/97" Canada Geese arrived in Anchorage on 23 March, at least a week early. A first winter sighting of the endangered Short-tailed Albatross for the North Pacific occurred on 17 February off Kodiak Island. --David Duffy <


WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION STATEMENT VIA Dr. James Chin, CDPC-mail "Many countries in the Americas are experiencing unexpected outbreaks of cholera associated with extreme weather conditions brought by the arrival of the El Nino phenomenon. During 1998, the following countries have already reported cholera outbreaks: Bolivia (La Paz, El Alto, Valles y Tropico de la Paz) 165 cases and 5 deaths; Honduras (La Mosquitia in Gracias a Dios Department) 219 cases and 12 deaths; Ecuador (Loja Province) 11 cases and 1 death; Peru (various departments) 2863 cases and 16 deaths; Nicaragua (border area with Honduras) 3 suspected cases. It is expected that other countries in the region will report increased cholera incidence in the coming months. Preventive and control measures are being taken by the Ministries of Health of the affected countries. However, as the epidemic enters its 8th year in the western hemisphere and with the added impact of El Nino, cholera will continue to challenge governments and health agencies; additional international resources for emergency preparedness and control measures will be needed this year. WHO/PAHO are working closely with countries in the region to reactivate cholera preparedness and response plans." --ProMED-mail <


Geoff Spencer of the Associated Press reports that the U.N. warns that drought and the financial crisis in Indonesia put 7.5 million people at risk of "acute food supply inadequacy" in the world's fourth largest nation by population. The economic crisis will make recovery from the drought more difficult as people lack money to purchase seed and fertilizer. This in turn will aggravate the economic situation as Indonesia is forced to import rice. An international economic bailout awaits indications that President Suharto's family will reduce its grip on the economy.--based on a report from <


"On a recent research cruise in Panama, a group of scientists from the University of Miami's Marine Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed coral bleaching in the waters off the Pacific coast of Panama. El Nino along the Panama coast. In Panama's Gulf of Chiriqui region, bleaching was seen in almost all species of corals present. At six sites, including reefs at Uva Island and the Secas Islands that have been part of long term studies, 50% to almost 90% of corals had experienced at least partial bleaching. Most species were partially bleached with most bleaching on the upper surfaces of colonies. This was the second wave of bleaching, following earlier bleaching seen in the Fall of 1997. However, bleaching is not as severe as it was observed in 1983. Sea surface temperatures in the area are currently 29 to 31 degrees C, nearly a degree and a half warmer than normal. Data from temperature monitors on the reefs indicate that elevated temperatures have existed periodically since mid-summer 1997. These agree with observations from NOAA satellite and blended sea surface temperature data. Corals from this area begin to bleach when temperatures are maintained above 29 degrees C. While we suspect that the bleaching extends north into areas off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we know of no one that has made observations to test this. Images of weekly and monthly sea surface temperatures in the area from Costa Rica to the Galapagos can be found at:" C. Mark Eakin < VIA


"Galapagos Islands: I traveled to the Galapagos on the days listed above. I was struck by several things compared to my last visit there and from talking to local naturalists. Galapagos sea lion numbers were way down and some (but not all) of the pups looked very thin. A landing beach on Santa Fe Island where I expected to see several hundred sea lions based on my last visit had less than ten. On Espanola Island, dense growth of vegetation resulting from El Nino rains has overgrown nesting sites of blue footed boobies. In contrast, land birds, such as the Darwins finches were much more abundant than I remember from my last visit, and this casual observation was supported by our local guides."--Robert Buchsbaum <


"Excerpts from the NOAA/NESDIS El Nino Watch Advisory 98-3 for March 1998: Anomalously warm sea surface temperatures (SST) cooled somewhat off the U.S. West Coast in March. In the area off southern California and Baja California, where in February temps were +4 and +5 degrees F warmer than the norm, in March SST anomalies had decreased to slightly less than 4+degrees F. Elsewhere along the coast there was little change from the SST anomaly pattern for February and high positive SSTs anomalies persist. Again, as noted before, as this pattern of seasonally warm coastal waters runs very deep, it is expected to take a considerable length of time for the heat content to erode to near seasonal norms after the ENSO driving forces subside. An effect of these warm waters is anticipated to significantly impact marine life in coastal waters through at least spring. Scientists presently conducting a research survey off southern California report that spawning of sardine and anchovy is moderate to heavy. An early and large influx of fish migrants from tropical waters is expected (e.g. several species of tunas) is anticipated. The upwelling index is close to the seasonal norm for March; nowhere does it exceed one unit of standard deviation. The large departure from normal of the position and intensity of the jet stream, an effect of the global ENSO conditions, has brought a series of storms with heavy precipitation to the central and southern regions of the West Coast, which continued into April."--Susan Smith <


Dow Jones News reported that Peruvian fishmeal production dropped more than 80% in January - February of this year, compared to last, because of El Nino conditions.


"AP reported 4/1 a brown pelican seen in Phoenix suburbs was probably propelled by El Nino winds from the California coast to Arizona. "They sort of give up and let the winds carry them," said Janet Witzeman, of the Maricopa Audubon Society. "It wouldn't surprise me if there were a few more of them out there," Witzeman said. "There's so many housing developments with lakes, there's always a chance they could land here." The brown pelican is an endangered species living on the pacific coastline from California to South America. Pelicans can starve if they aren't rescued and flown back"--Roger Featherstone < VIA


"I talked to Dr. Wilson Alecrim, Director of the Instituto de Medicina Tropical of Manaus, this morning. He told me that an epidemic of dengue fever started in Manaus last weekend and they have already seen 240 cases this week. "--Donald R. Roberts, Ph.D.< VIA ProMED-mail <


Lori Tighe of the Star-Bulletin reports that the ENSO drought on Big Island and Kaui is limiting availability of maile, a major forest product used for lei production. This is the first shortage in 13 years (1982- 1983, the last ENSO event).


Earth Alert reports record temperatures, the highest in 80 years, up to 105 F (40.6 C) have hit Ho Chi Minh City--Earth Alert <


The Associated Press reports that Cuba will have one of its worst sugar harvests in years, as ENSO storms cut harvest time.


Reuters reports government food supplies are being sent to the southern Philippines to replace crops lost to the ENSO drought.


The Hawaii Star Bulletin reports that rainfall third in the first three months of 1998 was the third lowest since 1874. The record in 1957 was also an ENSO year.


Inter Press Service reports 82,000 hectares of forests and grasslands burned through March, close to the total for all of 1997, in 11 of Mexico's 32 states, the hardest hit being Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas. Twenty firefighters have died. April and May are the driest months, so things are expected to get worse.


Environmental News Network reports that river runoff from EN snows may produce some of the best river-rafting conditions in years.


Ramoncito de la Cruz of Reuters reports that the Philippines have asked neighboring countries to help fight fires on the southwestern island of Palawan (20,000 hectares), near Itogon in northern Benguet province on Luzon, and in the Maragusan valley on Mindanao. One firefighter was killed, as well as two children.


Andina reports that the new lake La Nina, formed in the Sechura Desert by EN rains, will be used for aquacultural production of shrimp and mullets. The lake is believed to be 4,000 square kilometers.--OANNES <


Jane E. Allen of The Associated Press reports the economic impact of the

1997-1998 ENSO event was no greater than that of the last two winters. FEMA

expenditures for 97-98 were more than $289 million, compared to $294

million in 1996-97 and $280 million in 1995-96.

Federally Disaster Areas List:







Nov. 1, 1997



snow storm

Nov. 20, 1997


Northern Mariana Islands

Typhoon Keith

Dec. 8, 1997



Typhoon Paka

Dec. 17, 1997


N. Mariana Islands

Typhoon Paka

Dec. 24,1997



flooding, tornadoes

Jan. 6, 1998


New York

ice storm

Jan. 9, 1998



storms, flooding

Jan. 11, 1998



ice storm

Jan. 13, 1998


New Hampshire

ice storm

Jan. 15, 1998


North Carolina

storms, flooding

Jan. 15, 1998



ice storm

Jan. 15, 1998;


New Mexico

snow storm

Jan. 29, 1998



winter storm

Feb. 2,1998



flooding, tornadoes

Feb. 12, 1998



Nor'easter, coastal flooding

Feb. 13, 1998


New Jersey

Nor'easter, coastal flooding

March 3, 1998




March 3, 1998



severe storms, snow

March 9, 1998




March 11, 1998


Marshall Islands

drought, crop losses

March 20, 1998


North Carolina


March 22, 1998




April 1, 1998








Xinhua reports one million people around South Cotabato and General Santos City in the southern Philippines may be facing starvation as an ENSO drought has destroyed crops, leaving 89,600 people "on the brink of starvation".


Tom Kizzia of The Anchorage Daily News says officials expect this to be a bad season for forest fires. Residents burning brush around the town of Homer may spark their own fires. The Kenai Peninsula had good snow falls unlike farther north in Alaska where ground moisture will be seriously depleted after two years of drought. Analysis of records indicates bad fire seasons tend to follow ENSO years.


Reuters reports ENSO may be linked to future fish kills on the Eastern Shore this year because of heavy rain and floods.


"Source: The Straits Times, Malaysia: Dengue fever has killed 21 people and infected thousands more in Jakarta this year, sparking fears of an epidemic, the Sinar Pagi daily reported yesterday. Hospitals are being overwhelmed by patients suffering from the disease."--Clyde E. Markon < VIA ProMED-mail <


Environmental Newswire reports that EN-related rains have generated a major bloom of spring flowers at California's East Mojave Desert at Anza-Borrego State Park.-- Environmental Newswire <


Winter Consistent with Trends Toward a Warmer/Wetter World " A special summary on the nation's unusual winter weather and climate extremes has been issued by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency announced today. The report provides highlights on the country's unique weather during the height of the El Nino, from December 1997 through March 1998. "This winter's El Nino ranks as one of the major climatic events of this century," said D. James Baker, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. "The country as a whole saw the warmest and wettest January and February in the past 104 years. Rainfall records dating back to 1884 were broken in California, and temperature records from 1890 were broken in Ohio." "When you look more closely at the numbers, you also see that this record-breaking El Nino is consistent with a worldwide trend over the last 40 years toward a warmer and wetter world," said Baker. This winter's El Nino, in a sense, provides us a window on the future," said Baker. "We can't draw a causal link between El Nino and global warming," said Baker. "But our modeling tells us that global warming may first manifest itself in changes in weather patterns. In other words, this winter's El Nino is a taste of what we might expect if the earth warms as we now project," said Baker. There is broad scientific consensus that the evidence points to a discernible human influence on global climate. Climate records indicate that a warming of the earth is occurring, and human activity is contributing to it. The average global temperature rose 1.1 degrees (F) over the past century and is projected to rise another 2 to 6 degrees by 2100. This is a faster rate of change than any that's occurred on the planet in the last 10,000 years. "It is difficult to predict with any precision the impacts on any given area," said Baker. "we have studies under way to develop a clearer picture of potential impacts on different regions of the United States." The report is available through NOAA's World Wide Web site for reporters at:"


"A few dead Common Murres were found in the Chiniak Bay area of Kodiak Island as early as 2 March. Small numbers were found on area beaches through the month. There were several reports of Bald Eagles eating murres, and two reports of eagles taking live murres from the water near shore. By the end of the month, dead murres were being found on most beaches checked, and several observers reported listless, unusually approachable birds in nearshore waters. To date (8 April), a total of about 40 dead birds has been found at about 12 sites. A few dozen impared birds have been seen in nearshore waters."--Paul J. Anderson" <


"April 9, NMFS issued a press release reporting that biologists studying salmon and other marine life in waters off San Francisco in March found many baitfish, such as sardines and anchovies, that were remarkably thin for their size and appeared undernourished. The malnourished condition of these fish is probably due to the scarcity of food caused by seasonal low ocean productivity and the effects of the current El Niño. Samples of the fish were saved to be analyzed later in the laboratory and compared with samples collected in previous years. The NMFS biologists made their observations during recent biological surveys aboard the NOAA research vessel David Starr Jordan. The first survey (March 10-16) was designed to assess the distribution and ecology of juvenile king salmon within the Gulf of the Farallones. A high-speed rope trawl was used at night to collect the young fish. In addition to capturing salmon, numerous anchovies and sardines were collected incidentally. The reason for the malnourished condition of these small baitfish may be twofold. During the winter months, when the fish were sampled, the ocean's productivity is at its yearly low. And this year, the presence of El Niño conditions has further reduced ocean productivity to the point that many fish appear to be having difficulty finding food. Lack of fish food was demonstrated when fine mesh plankton nets deployed during the survey collected very little plankton. The second survey (March 19-23) was part of an ongoing program to monitor possible impacts of the disposal of dredged materials from the Oakland Estuary Deepening Project on fishes and other important organisms at the San Francisco Deep Ocean Disposal Site, located 50 miles west of San Francisco in waters more than a mile deep. Members of theTiburon Laboratory staff used plankton nets and small research trawls to collect organisms at 21 stations in and around the disposal site. They noted a paucity of organisms throughout the study area and sea temperature substantially warmer than normal (for example, 56o F at 200 ft), with the intrusion of a thick layer of warm saline water throughout the coastal region. Marine ecologists aboard also noted that seabirds and marine mammals were unusually sparse wherever the depth of the water exceeded 200 m. Only one pinniped species was abundant during the cruise (northern fur seal), and there were few sightings of most porpoise species; no whales were observed. Biologists doing the surveys also ascribe the paucity of seabirds and mammals to the effects of El Niño, namely, lack of food near the surface, which can be attributed to a deep thermocline and no upwelling of cool, nutrient-rich


Xinhua reports EN has damaged 152,865 hectares of farm land in Ecuador with rice the main crop damaged, for a total agricultural loss of $ 100 million dollars.


Reuters reports this has already been the deadliest tornado season in 14 years, even though April is traditionally the most dangerous month. At least 95 have died. It is not clear how many of these storms are directly attributable to ENSO.


"The earth continues to tilt the Northern Hemisphere towards the sun and thus the belt of rising, moist air girding the globe is moving northward bringing with it the rains to the northern Neotropics (and the northern Paleotropics as well!). The heaviest rains are falling about 200 nautical miles west of Ecuador. On the South American Continent, rains are falling along the southern boundaries of Colombia and Venezuela and throughout western Brazil and eastern Peru. A low pressure(988mb) area off Cape Hatteras, USA is sucking up the Atlantic high which is barely 1020mb, a long way east of central America, HENCE no winds here (the Trades). The Intertropical Convergence Zone (the belt of rising air mentioned above) at 1012mb is being down up northward toward another low(1008mb) over Mexico. It is raining in Java and Papua and a little over Borneo (may put fires out!) Here in Panama, scattered showers of a few minutes duration have already begun. Forecast? If the ITCZ gets stuck over the warm water off Ecuador and Peru, our rainy season will be delayed. That "anomalously warm" body of water (the El Nino ugh!!) is dissipating having never reached the predicted conditions. The tepid stuff has to go west for things to settle down. Remember that is the way energy goes at the equator as the earth turns to the east."Neal Smith <


Xinhua reports 60 fish processing plants shut down in Chimbote, Peru's main fishing port, because of lack of fish.


The Associated Press reports that Indonesian fires may threaten Orangutans on Borneo island , either because of fire or because droughts have removed fruits and water from their normal habitat, forcing them into surrounding areas where they are killed or sold as pets.


CNN reports one million people in Sudan and Ethiopia may face famine as war and an ENSO drought have destroyed agricultural production. In southern Sudan 250,000 people may already be starving, although most of the 'credit' for this goes to local civil wars.


Reuters reports that more than 6,700 fires, many set as traditional agricultural methods, have already burned more than 330,000 acres in almost all of Mexico's 31 states. About 1,000 acres of the Desierto de los Leones reserve burned, adding to Mexico City's already severe air quality problems.


Al Hinman of CNN reports bubonic plague and other diseases may be added to California's effects of ENSO. Large populations of mosquitoes, produced after flooding, may lead to outbreaks of encephalitis. A ground squirrel population explosion east of Los Angeles in the mountains could lead to local outbreaks of plague. In New Mexico, increased numbers of rodents, responding to increased food following rain could lead to outbreaks of hanta virus.


"Source: Africa News, 12 Apr 1998: According to a Bomet district councillor, Alfred Cheramgoi, there were 10 cholera deaths during the week prior to 12 April in Kapkelei Location, Danai, Bomet District, Kenya. Mr. Cheramgoi said that death came quickly to the victims: within 6 hours after the onset of vomiting and diarrhea. The majority of district residents have been severely weakened by famine."--Dorothy Preslar < VIA ProMED-mail <


Reuters filed that the South China Morning Post reports over 60% of Hong Kong's fish farm stocks have been destroyed at a loss of $9 million (U.S.) by a red tide linked to El Nino.


Eight died as a landslide swept over the town of Las Guaijas, southwest of Quito, following heavy rains.


Xinhua reports that approximately 21,000 hectares of forest have burned since the start of the year compared to a normal 15,000 hectare rate.


The Philippine Star (Via Xinhua) reported 36 dead in a famine in southern Mindanao affecting indigenous communities. Child malnutrition is widespread as the El Nino-caused drought continues, resulting in crop failure.

13 APRIL 1998. ENGLAND: CLIMATE (FLOODING) reports some of the worst flooding in 150 years left four dead in central and eastern England over the weekend. Thousands s had to be evacuated. (It is not clear if this is ENSO related, ed.) <


El Nino Food Security Response Report # 2

"Harare (Catholic Relief Services, April 13, 1998) - Southern Africa Regional Office, El Nino Food Security Response Report # 2. April 14, 1998. For additional information contact Gino Lofredo CRS/SARO, e-mail:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The CRS/SARO's first El Nino Food Security Response Report of March 4, 1998 was circulated widely and generated considerable feedback. In this Report # 2 we incorporate new information from CRS/SARO field validation missions to Malawi and Lesotho, from CRS offices in the region and from other in-country sources. While we maintain the basic definition of the four original emergency status groupings in our first Report we acknowledge our readers' comments that limiting our focus to food access problems linked to El Nino was too restrictive and left out situations that needed attention. Therefore we are broadening our criteria to include food crisis caused by other factors. In this report we include field validated information on Malawi and Lesotho. We also report on the spreading crop damage caused by weather problems and locust infestation in Madagascar. A review of the SARO countries' crop prospects is also included based on data just made available from SADC, FAO, WFP and FEWS assessments.

REGIONAL OVERVIEW As of the first week of April 1998, crop growing conditions have been generally favourable in most parts of Southern Africa as the February dry spell was followed by good rains in March. However, we have received reports of localized crop damage in several parts of the subregion normally vulnerable to erratic rainfall. While it is still too early to give precise production figures for the season, there seems to be a consensus among experts that total cereal production in the SADC countries may be about 8% below the relatively good 96/97 harvest. This is good news when we recall that as recently as of January forecasters were looking at a 20 to 30% drop. According to the FAO/WFP mid-season food supply review, the major forecasts for these countries are still very tentative and subject to distortions motivated by other than technical considerations. More definitive figures on cereal import requirements for the region will not be available until late May when most of the crops will have been harvested. The 13 countries included in the SARO region have been analysed and categorized in the four groupings below based on data made available as of April 13, 1998. You will notice some shifts in the position of some countries in our food vulnerability groupings between our first and second reports.

1. FOOD CRISIS. Major relief intervention probable.

Food security seriously affected by weather and other factors. Significant sectors of the population are facing severe food access difficulties. Domestic coping mechanisms are insufficient to respond to the crisis. External support requested and field information independently validated. CRS emergency relief intervention requested and being considered


2. MODERATE FOOD ACCESS DIFFICULTIES. CRS will monitor closely developments in these countries. An assessment of response capacity and interest in mitigation activities is recommended. Food production now affected and chronically vulnerable to weather patterns. Moderate food access difficulties in specific chronically vulnerable districts. Moderate to severe economic difficulties widespread. Domestic coping mechanisms activated and insufficient . Other non weather factors compound food difficulties (ie pests, insecurity). International donors and NGO's being approached for food relief


3. POTENTIALLY VULNERABLE BUT ABLE TO COPE. Not facing food security difficulties this season but require continued monitoring and forecasting. Existing domestic and external resources can meet estimated consumption needs. CRS mitigation activities recommended and being considered.


4. ABLE TO COPE. No CRS food relief intervention likely in the 98/99 season. Parts of these countries may be negatively affected by El Nino or other weather patterns, sometimes seriously, but their natural and economic resources make them able to cope with eventual or chronic food shortages.


These groupings reflect the food access vulnerability in each country based on the analysis and projections contained in the attached report. The data and assessment upon which this report is based cover the period through 4/7/98. In this Report # 2 we attempt to provide a useful tool for ourselves and for our colleagues in the Caritas, CIDSE and broad international NGO community. For CRS our purpose is to identify the potential problem countries in Southern Africa to concentrate our attention and effort where they may be needed most. In our next Report we will share the results of our assessment of the Madagascar situation and look at the implications of the near definitive data on this season's crop yields for the food security in the region. We will continue our field visits with the purpose of validating the information available and to assess the interest and capacity of potential partners of the Church community to engage in mitigation and/or relief interventions when the situation may require it. This report and subsequent updates will be circulated per distribution list on the last page of the report. Interested parties may contact the Southern Africa Regional Office's El Nino Response Coordinator in Harare, Zimbabwe by e-mail at, or by fax at (263-4) 726 555.

CRS/SARO FIELD VALIDATION ASSESSMENTS MALAWI From March 8th through the 15th CRS/SARO visited Malawi to assess the impact of lack and excess of rains on crop development. The favourable rains through most of the season led to better maturity of the crops and better than average expected yields. While floods in some districts damaged property and caused loss of lives, their impact on crops was not as severe as anticipated. Increased yields in some areas are attributed to timely availability of improved seeds and other inputs as compensatory measures for increases in the cost of fertilizers. Harvest prospects are very favourable. Total maize production is projected at 29% above last season, for an estimated 1.8 million MT. The increase in wheat production is estimated at 39%. Malawi will be within reach of cereal consumption self-sufficiency. The relatively small deficit will be met through normal market mechanisms. The field assessment served to identify several mitigation strategies which could reduce risks in future erratic seasons: 1) expand horticulture which in many areas with relatively simple irrigation schemes,can be grown in the dry season and become year round cash crops; 2) Increase the availability of drought resistant maize seeds and expand multicropping practices; and 3) Promote small scale water harnessing and simple irrigation schemes to reduce the impact of lower than normal rainfall. NGO's and Ministry of Agriculture extensionists are cooperating in these initiatives but their capacity is insufficient for the tasks. Some budget cutting aspects of the Structural Adjustment Policies have limited the resources of the Ministry of Agriculture's extentionists network whose role in improving agricultural practices and yields is indispensable. It would seem this government activity is definitely not the place to cut expenditures. Additional domestic and international resources would be more appropriate. On the other hand, continuing subsidies of grain prices through the Government's distribution outlet while intended to reduce food access difficulties to the poor in remote areas is often misused by profit seeking intermediaries. Despite overall increases in production and diversification of crops, certain districts are suffering food access difficulties. WFP Malawi has identified 10 such areas and is carrying out a food for work assistance program improving access roads and laying irrigation schemes. Food assistance requirements will be marginal and the institutional framework in place is capable of responding adequately. CRS partners in the CADECOM and other health and education networks of the Catholic Church have an extensive presence in most areas of the country. Their role in a severe food emergency would be very useful for distribution of food and the provision of health services. However, since mitigation activities and the improvement of agricultural practices in low yield and weather vulnerable areas is the priority response, the CADECOM district representatives need technical training and additional resources to assist small farmers. Strengthening the mitigation and developmental capacities of this support network and increasing its linkages with the Ministry of Agriculture extentionists is a central component of the country's program. LESOTHO From March 18th through the 26th, CRS/SARO visited Lesotho to assess the reported severe crop damage and the emerging food crisis situation. During this mission we were able to observe directly the crop and livestock conditions in the main production areas in the Highlands, Foothills and Lowlands districts. The following is a summary of our findings: 1. A particularly damaging sequence of unusual weather has caused significant damage to the maize crop and yields are expected to be between 30 and 40% below the previous season. However we found no evidence of significant food access difficulties which could require emergency relief interventions. Government generated data suggesting a serious emergency has not been adequately validated. No systematic crop assessments or household food security surveys have been carried out. We did not detect the activation of the early coping mechanisms that announce the start of a food crisis situation. 2. Lesotho normally imports about 50% of its food consumption requirements mostly from South Africa. The current deficit crop may increase these import needs to about 300,000 MT of cereals or about 58% of its consumption needs. The principal importers are the millers who report normal demand patterns for this pre harvest lean period. A range of income indicators support the view that purchasing power is sufficient and possibly expanding in aggregate figures in all but a few specific areas and social sectors. The disposable income comes from miners remittances, growth of the urban informal sector, a significant expansion of the garment and footwear export oriented manufacturing sector, the largely unaccounted stabilizing effect of the livestock and wool sectors, and finally, in terms of government income, the start of the royalty payments from South Africa for the water Lesotho exports. Therefore despite the sharp decline in cereal production in the 97/98 season commercial demand driven imports are expected to cover food consumption requirements. No major food assistance operation is expected to be needed. Nevertheless the government's Disaster Management Authority and some international NGO's have requested and obtained small amounts of food aid which they intend to target distribute in the coming months. Unfortunately the lack of field data on the most affected populations may limit the effectiveness of the effort. Lesotho faces a strategic food and agriculture problem which requires immediate and decisive action by national and international agencies. Agricultural production in Lesotho has dropped at the average rate of 1% per year since the 1950's. Since then the size of the country's prime agricultural land has been cut by 1/3 mostly by voracious erosion and urban expansion. Experts agree that only radical changes in water and land management, a decisive shift away from maize cropping and into horticulture and fruits, combined with the introduction of soil preservation and rehabilitation technologies and agricultural practices can reverse the rapid deterioration taking place. These interventions will require considerable investments in infrastructure and in human resources development. Government revenues from the Katse Dam and Muela hydropower station could be used for these purposes. The key actors in such an effort would have to be the government's Agricultural Extensionists and Disaster Management networks, and the coordinated effort of the national and international NGO communities. The far reaching network of missions and schools run by the Catholic Church (450 schools serving 46% of all students) could serve as the physical backbone for the massive training and retraining exercise required.

NEW INFORMATION AND MONITORING ACTIVITIES MADAGASCAR In our March report we noted that the weather patterns in Madagascar were not disrupting crop development significantly and that the food access difficulties were more related to localized locust infestation and the general lack of adequate infrastructure. Madagascar saw rainfall deficits alternated with excessive precipitation from one week to the next. Madagascar's position makes it particularly sensitive to the ocean temperature changes associated with El Nino. The disadvantage is erratic rainfall. The one advantage is that in El Nino years Madagascar is spared the seasonal cyclones. Since then we have learned that rains in February and March created conditions for a second season of locust swarms reproduction. They have already caused damage more severe than initially forecast. The national food supply situation is generally satisfactory except in the southern areas where the 1997 production was reduced by the combined impact of locusts and insufficient rains. Food aid pledged by donors amounts to 29,500 tonnes of which 16,000 tonnes have been delivered.. A March 24, 1998 emergency report from FAO says that the current infestation poses a serious threat to the staple rice crop. Heavy infestation is said to cover some 10 million hectares, or about 17% of the total area of the country. Earlier this year FAO launched an international appeal to fight the locust threat, US$8 million have been committed by donors so far. FAO obtained five fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter for aerial spraying, pesticides and international locust experts to start a control program. The Madagascar Government has now drafted in the army to take the lead in control operations, working alongside the agriculture ministry's plant protection service. Despite the substantial effort under way, it may take several years to control the plague. In the immediate future, emphasis may have to be placed on protecting crops rather than on ending the plague.

According to a WFP report the USAID Disaster Unit fielded a mission during the last week of March to evaluate damages in the Mid-west. Its report states, "There are reasons to believe that the Malagasy locusts are evolving and reproducing at speeds never before recorded in laboratories and field studies around the world." FAO/WFP and GTZ will be fielding missions in April and May to determine which emergency responses may be required. CRS/SARO will assess the Madagascar situation starting April 14th and an emergency report will be circulated in May. ZIMBABWE The 97/98 maize crop estimates for Zimbabwe vary considerably. Depending on the sources and the methodologies used Zimbabwe could have an export surplus of about 200,000 tonnes, or have to import of as much as 600,000 tonnes. These variations can not be explained on purely technical grounds. Maize availability and its impact on staple food prices is a very sensitive political issue in the current environment where the extent and form of the land redistribution program is being shaped by powerful national and international players. Despite the differences there appears to be agreement on a reduction of crop yields in the communal areas of approximately 30% with respect to last season. Some analysts point to the rainfall patterns as the cause, others note that this figure is in itself politically sensitive and can not be relied upon. Low yields in communal areas may increase food vulnerability considerably among poor farmers. Considering the complexity of the Zimbabwe situation we found the April 7, Zimbabwe FEWS report to be the most comprehensive and useful. According to FEWS, the first official crop forecast calls for 1.42 million Mt of maize, some 18 percent short of average production, and below the human grain consumption requirement of about 1.9 million Mt. Maize makes up 85-90 percent of the country's coarse grain production. Expected wheat production is about 250,000 mt. There may be a post-harvest assessment of production in May 1998. The FEWS report says that potential domestic maize shortfall may be 565, 000 mt, if the Strategic Grain Reserve of 500,000 Mt is to be reconstituted. The maize on-hand after the harvest will cover all needs until March 1999, but imports will be required several months before that for buffer stocks. Water and pasture conditions are good in almost all districts. Maize prices, both retail and wholesale, are greatly higher this year than last year, and in many cases are double what they were. The poor will be able to buy less grain than last year. Especially for families in the marginal farming areas of the south, whose harvest will produce little, the high price of maize is the real factor of vulnerability. Because pastures and livestock are in good condition, the food security of these populations is unlikely to crash next year. Government relief programs are likely to register more than the 1.2 million people who on average receive food supplements. An explanation linking lower production in Zimbabwe with inappropriate management of drought forecast information comes from WFP and deserves special attention: "The management of El Nino information has led to some farmers reducing areas planted and others not planting at all... Some farmers did not buy any inputs because they did not want to waste resources... The publicity on El Nino also caused many farmers to hold on to their stocks and reduce deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board causing speculation in the markets and steep rise in prices... many farmers planted short season varieties which yield less... and others did not weed their crops or grazed in anticipation of the reported drought..." CRS heard similar reports on farmers behavior in other countries initially expected to be affected by El Nino. It is now apparent that in addition to forecasting weather and crop yields, El Nino watchers will have manage carefully public information with such potential for social economic and political disruption. Close work among meteorologists, agronomists, economists and communication specialists will be needed. MOZAMBIQUE Observers agree that Mozambique is the food production success story of the season. If final crop yields como close to the SADC maize forecasts, Mozambique will be the only country in the region able to export maize, about 10% of its gross harvest, perhaps as much as 150,000 tonnes. Credit goes to the improvement in the security environment and the favourable weather through most of the country. Better availability of key inputs in previously isolated areas may also have improved yields. Production estimates for other agricultural projects show similar improvements. ZAMBIA Forecasts for Zambia's cereal production have improved since our last report # 1 where we noted that mid term assessments by the Government of Zambia, WFP/FAO and FEWS pointed to sharp drops in cereal production this season. More abundant and stable rainfall during February and March, good access to seed and fertilizer, and early crop diversification has improved forecasts. In its 3/18/98 update WFP reports that "Early prospects for the 1998 cereal harvest are generally favourable in the major growing areas... The present food supply situation is generally satisfactory as a result of recent imports of maize, especially from South Africa... cereal supply should cover needs until the new crop... further imports may be required during the 98/99 marketing year to cover the country's cereal needs."

SITUATIONS UNCHANGED ANGOLA Through the beginning of April the weather has been favourable in Angola's most important agricultural areas. Normally Angola is not affected by El Nino weather changes. Despite important advances in the negotiations to stabilize the political situation general insecurity continue to hamper agricultural production. The land mines used extensively during the war make inputs and crop transport dangerous. Despite these security problems production is expected to be between 5% and 15% higher than in the 97 season. Import requirements estimated at 400,000 Mt. of cereals to be purchased with domestic and international resources. Numerous NGO's are reported to be well positioned to respond to food distribution requirements. BOTSWANA Botswana is probably the country whose already meager agriculture has been most severely affected by the season's weather pattern. Irregular, untimely and insufficient rains led to an estimated 66% drop in cereal production. Botswana may only produce about 6% of its cereal consumption requirements this season. The country's considerable revenues from mineral resources will cover import costs without difficulties. NAMIBIA In the current season Namibia will have to import about 60% of its cereal consumption needs, the average for the past 5 years is 40%. Lower production is mainly attributed to a significant reduction of the areas planted and not so much to weather problems. Pastures and grazing lands have done well. Namibia's economic resources will cover import requirements. SOUTH AFRICA South Africa's average maize surplus is roughly equivalent to the rest of the region's deficit. Damage to SA's grain crops would exacerbate problems in other SADC countries. Preliminary estimates show both planted areas and expected yields dosn from the previous season. Most recent SADC estimates suggest a 15% drop in cereal production leaving little if any exportable maize surplus. South Africa is food self sufficient even under worst production scenarios. With most grain markets in the SADC region now open to free trade effective purchasing demand is a more decisive factor to food access than actual local production. SWAZILAND Over the past five years Swaziland has averaged a 92% maize self sufficiency. Good season progression with rainfall above normal and the reported extensive use of early planting and short season varieties suggest that 97/98 production will be within the historical average. Food supply reserves are satisfactory and will cover demand without significant import requirements." -- Distributed via Africa News Online.


The Associated Press files that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Miami are reporting Panama's Gulf of Chiriqui is experiencing coral bleaching, the tenth area around the world with ENSO related bleaching (Australia's Great Barrier Reef, French Polynesia, Kenya, the Galapagos Islands, the Florida Keys, Baja California, the Yucatan Coast of Mexico, the Cayman Islands and the Netherlands Antilles) . Water temperatures are three degrees above normal.


El Comercio reports that rains continue in Manabi, on the Pacific side, leading to the evacuation of 44 families. Seventy nine have died so far in Ecuador in El Nino related incidents. Landslides continue to be a problem with the saturated soil. In the Amazon area of Ecuador, malaria is widespread. Efforts to control the disease through spraying are limited by poor roads and limited equipment.


"This is a communication from northeastern Argentina. We are suffering tremendous rainfall since November 1997. Our province of Corrientes has several cities, highways and bridges submerged. In the first trimester 1998 we had more than the annual average rainfall, which is around 55 inches, and in April in some places we had 20 more inches. Our area is between latitudes 26 and 28 south and near meridian 55 west. According to images shown in some internet pages the area of warmed water in the Pacific ocean is receding and the forecast says that these abnormalities should not increase and should come to an end but here in south America. However here we are, I would say, in the worse point of the whole process, with uninterrupted rain since Sunday night. Do you think that the forecast is wrong?"--Larguia Alejandro <


Reuters reports smog from ENSO--related fires have forced schools and offices to open late, to reduce exposure to early morning high particulate loads in the air. The United States has issued a travel warning for Brunei because of the smog. More than 9,000 acres have burned in Brunei this year.


Reuters reports that Japan's Meteorological Agency doubts that the 425 mm of rain and high winds associated with a recent storm were completely caused by ENSO--Reuters <


Reuters reports record temperatures leading to fires in Georgia and Armenia. (It is not known if this had any relation to ENSO, ed.)


The Inter Press Service reports the prospect of major forest fires in June in the states of Para, Maranhao, Mato Grosso, Rondonia and Acre; fires are traditionally set for land clearing during the dry season could get out of control (see a parallel situation in Indonesia--ed.). The government has set up 100 community fire-fighting brigades and education programs in hopes of avoiding the threat.


"Murre die-off and beach surveys: It looks like El Nino is affecting seabirds in the Gulf of Alaska, as murre die-offs are reported in Cook Inlet, Kodiak, east Aleutians, Seward, and other places (including the Bering Sea). In an effort to document this through the coming months, we are trying to get field biologists to do beach surveys whenever and wherever they can."-- John Piatt <


The Associated Press reports over 502 have died in Peru and Ecuador because of El Nino: 192 in Ecuador with 41 missing; in Peru, 310 dead, 746 injured.


The Associated Press reports 30,000 people have had to be evacuated in six northeastern Argentine provinces because of the heaviest rains in ten years. Two are dead, one missing as the Parana and Paraguay rivers flooded. Crop damaged is estimated at $750 million.


Reuters reports that the World Wildlife Fund fears that forest fires in East and Central Kalimantan province will cause the extinction of orangutans. The large primates have been driven from their forests by the fires, while villagers, suffering from hunger caused by the ENSO drought, have turned to dealing in animals to feed their families. Some orangs have also been killed for food.


Xinhua reports that El Nino conditions off Mexico's west coast has improved fishing 20% or $70 million (U.S.).


Reuters reports water rationing in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur will continue until the October rains if the El Nino-caused drought does not break soon. Manufacturers have been restricted to 70 % of their needs, cutting production at a time when industries already are under pressure because of Asia's economic woes.


The Associated Press reports that an El Nino-driven drought in Vietnam has destroyed hundred of millions of dollars of crops and 900 forest fires have killed 10 and burned 35,000 acres in the south and central highlands. Salt water intrusion, as rivers fall, is threatening rice growing areas. In Daklak province only 10% of the population has access to sufficient water, as only 30 of 230 reservoirs still hold water. In some areas there has been no rain since November.


"Cagayan de Oro City, The Philippines: megamouth whale (? shark?): I was not the one of the many who sighted the megamouth but as a reporter for a national newspaper, I reported on the sighting last Feb. 21. My main informant have a webpage with a special report on it: < I am just curious -- since this whale is very rare (though most of those ten others sighted were also here within the Pacific Basin)- could the El Nino pushed it beyond its range?"--Lina Sagaral Reyes <


The distribution of anchoveta is expected to return to normal within three months according to reports from surveys by IMARPE, the Peruvian fisheries and oceanographic institute. Sardine are also present in low numbers. Mackerel are the most abundant species.--based on a report by Francisco j. Miranda Avalos < VIA OANNES<


Reuters reports ten dead, 55,000 evacuated and over one-quarter million people affected by the worst flooding in Argentina since 1983, the last major EN event. Damage may exceed $2.5 billion. Heavy rain in in Brazil's Pantanal swamp may cause yet more flooding as the water drains south into Argentina.


"The Department of Health declared a diarrhea outbreak in the remote mountain town of North Upi, Maguindanao, where 5 persons have already been reported dead. Authorities believe the cause is contaminated water due to the effect of the El Nino phenomenon."--Peter Petrisko < VIA <


El Comercio reported a summary of damage to Peruvian infrastructure:

1.Maximum temperatures and variation from normal (C)




















2.Average precipitation in mm compared to ENSO 88/89











3.Agricultural Damage compared to El Nin~o of 82/83.




Hectares lost



Hectares damaged




4. Damage to Education Infrastructure



Needing repair
















The departments most affected were Piura (294 locales), La libertad (265), Tumbes (168) and Ancash (145).

5. Damage to Health Infrastructure


107,296 homeless

171 killed

108 hurt

114 missing

Diseases (cases):

168,575 acute diarrhea

7,868 confirmed cholera

5,757 unconfirmed cholera

238,561 acute respiratory

11,241 pneumonia

31,103 malaria

394 dengue

Health Centers

5 destroyed

162 damaged

6. Roads and Communications Infrastructure


5 destroyed

162 damaged

Roads Affected








394 4.639



335 1.062



Kilometers of train rail destroyed:






7. Dwellings damaged or destroyed:

according to Defensa Civil


according to El INEI



8. Damage to Historical and Archeological Sites:

Totally Destroyed Historical and Archeological Sites:

Huaca El Loro (Lambayeque).

Partially Damaged Historical and Archeological Sites:

Pampas de Nazca (Nazca).

Huaca Las Ventanas (Lambayeque).

C.A. Batan Grande (Lambayeque).

Huaca La Palma (Tumbes).

C.A. Sillustani (Puno).

Huaca del Sol (La Libertad).

C.A. Mocollope (La Libertad).

Huaca Narihuala (Piura).

Iglesia San Martin de Sechura (Piura).

Iglesia del Carmen (Piura).

Iglesia de San Fransisco (Piura).

Iglesia de La Merced en Paita (Piura).

Iglesia S.C. de Jesus de Colan (Piura).

9.- Damage to Fishery Infrastructure

Puerto Pizarro (Tumbes)

La Islilla (Piura)

Yacila (Piura)

Samanco (Ancash)

Casma (Ancash)

Pisco (Ica)

Tambio de Mora (Ica)

Fisheries Landings in Metric Tons


Metric Tons

Reduction (%)
































10. Maximum volume of rivers in M3 per second.








11. Energy Infrastructure in millions of dollars (US)

Hydroelectric at Aricota I y II (Tacna)


Hydroelectric at Machu Picchu (Cusco)


Hydroelectric at Huampani (Lima)


Hydroelectric at La Pelota (Cajamarca)



24 APRIL 1998. INDONESIA: FIRE reports that rainfall in East Kalimantan helped put out about 70% of the exisiting fires, although some simply burned out after running out of unburned land. Rains are expected to continue in the next few weeks, even though it is still the dry <

25 APRIL 1998. THAILAND: DISEASE (DENGUE) " Bangkok Post 24 April: The incidence of dengue fever is expected to reach its highest level in 40 years this year, affecting some 300,000 persons, the Ministry of Public Health warned yesterday. Changes in climate as a result of the global warming effects of El Nino and inadequate preventive measures are blamed, according to Public Health Minister Rakkiat Sukthana. Usually dengue fever occurs only during the monsoon season, but since last year it has been escalating through the cool and hot seasons, he said. In the first three months of this year, the illness has taken 31 lives and affected 10,197 patients, a threefold increase over the previous year when it took eight lives and affected 3,280 patients. According to Epidemiology Division statistics, nearly 100,000 cases were reported in 1997, compared to 38,000 cases in 1996. Recent cases have been occurring more among older children than among small children of below five years. Reports of patients treated in state hospitals show that 70-75 percent of patients with dengue fever are between 5 and 14 years of age. Since dengue fever previously occurred among young children, its diagnosis on older children is often slow, leading to severity which often leads to shock and death, said Supachai Rerkngam, an expert at the Communicable Diseases Control Department. He said most doctors tend to overlook the possible occurrence of dengue fever among older children or young adults and often suspect them of being infected with other illnesses. "By the time they (doctors) finally find out that their patient is suffering from dengue fever, they (the patient) may have already reached a critical condition," said Dr Supachai. Studies are being carried out to find out the cause of infection among older children, he said."--Clyde Markon < VIA ProMED-mail <

24 APRIL 1998. INDONESIA: DISEASE (DENGUE) "CNN Interactive. . . The death toll from this year's dengue fever outbreak in various parts of Indonesia has risen to at least 422 with more than 16,000 others infected, officials said. Officials at the Health Ministry said Thursday the fatalities recorded since January came from 11 of Indonesia's 27 provinces. The central government has labeled the dengue outbreak "extraordinary" and called for a nationwide mosquito eradication [elimination] program. The number of death recorded is believed to be only a fraction of the actual number of fatalities throughout the country, officials said, citing the reason that only four provinces had filed casualties to the ministry this month. Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, is the hardest hit and the epidemic has triggered a blood transfusion crisis with scores of patients' relatives reportedly forced to spend more than a day waiting in the understaffed Jakarta chapter of the Indonesia Red Cross (PMI). Local newspapers reported Friday that at least 5,400 people in Jakarta with the disease had been hospitalized in the past four months and 54 people had died. The death toll is expected to rise, as government-run hospitals and blood donor agencies in Jakarta do not have a sufficient supply of blood badly needed by the dengue patients, said the reports."--Clyde Markon < VIA ProMED-mail <


Isla Natividad (28 N, 115 W): "I observed sooty and/or short tailed shearwaters in the Canal de Dewey off isla Natividad, Baja California Sur Mexico almost daily from April 14 to April 28. In 1997 these birds were common in large flocks, but the first birds were not seen until June 21 of that year. In addition, the numbers of black-vented shearwaters breeding on isla Natividad are significantly reduced. In 1997 60% of the burrows on the island contained breeding birds and all eggs were laid before April 5. This year only 20% of the burrows have breeding birds and birds were still laying in late April. The fishermen on the island say this is the worst year for harvesting abalone since 1981/82. The abalone are very thin and there is little algae on the rocks for them to graze. Much of the Macrocystis around the island was killed during the October hurricane, and it has not regrown this year."--Bradford Keitt <


"The drought gripping Fiji's Western Division, especially the Ba and Tavua districts, has taken a drastic toll on the 1998 sugarcane crop, Island Network Corporation reports. The Fiji Sugar Corporation's Rarawai Mill Manager, Joe Osborne, told Island Network News that all sectors of the two districts reported that cane has deteriorated to a "state of no return." Osborne says this means that no matter what happens farmers will not be able to harvest the current crop. The total tonnage for this season, he forecasts, is likely to be reduced by half compared to last year."--PACNEWS <

20 APRIL 1998. SAMOA: FISHERY (TUNA) APIA, Samoa (April 20, 1998 - /Tohi)

---"Samoa's fishing industry has picked up momentum again after recent improvements in catches, mainly yellow-fin and albacore tuna. The pelagic or highly migratory species had been absent from Samoan waters for three months, pressuring some boat owners to put their vessels up for sale and encouraging others to opt for deep line fishing, Radio 2AP reports. For most boat-owners, however, the lull in activity allowed fishermen to maintain their vessels and on-board facilities. Indicating that the fish are back, one boat returned earlier this week with 40 good sized tuna." --PACNEWS <


"Last Friday 17 th of April, I went on a semipelagic trip off the coast off Paracas, together with four British birders. According to our boatman the water temperatures have suddenly dropped from ca 27 degrees a few days/weeks ago to around 20. This means there has been a sudden influx of cold water. The birds and sealions are just returning to the area. There is an interesting mixture of vagrant northern and southern seabirds in our records below. Another thing that supports that life are coming back to the Peruvian coast was the abundance of cetaceans. We saw large schools of Common Dolphin and Bottle-nosed Dolphins as well as a ca 10 whales - of right whale type (small large ones). (Unfortunately no literature handy for id)

Here are the goodies. Since there are a few very odd records I would like comments. Also, maybe someone on the list could diffuse this message to Seabirds-L, for comments by expertise.

N=northern migrant. S=Southern Migrant. R=Usually resident or breeding in the area.

Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) R 5

Peruvian Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides garnotti) R 5

Cape Petrel (Daption capense) S 1

Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) R 200

Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) N 10

Waved Albatross (Diomedea irrorata) N 6

Grey-headed Albatross (Diomedea chrysostoma) S 6

Northern Giant Fulmar

(Macronectes halli) S 1 - new for Peru. 1 juv bird seen

very well with dark bill tip and all chocolate brown plumage. No whitish feathers at all in face area.

Any chance of misidentification? Some photographs were taken.

Swallow-tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus) N 10

Chilean Skua

(Catharacta chilensis) S 8

Antarctic Skua (Catharacta antarctica)? S 2 - We are a bit reserved of this record since it is basically identified on negative features. We particularly saw one bird very well, which did not have the tawny color of the species above. Is it possible to identify to Antarctic Skua on the following field marks? Very dark chocolate color all over and no cap. Definitely not tawny/ginger on belly. Apart from the obvious white crescent in the wing it had a smaller less conspicuous one, but clearly seen. Virtually identical to Great Skua. Antarctic Skua has never been positively identified off the Peruvian coast as far as I know. It is not mentioned in Parker&acute;s checklist. Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) N 4

Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica antarctica) S 1 ?!!!!? We saw a bird that was gliding over the waves about 20 nautical miles from shore in a shearwater fashion. Observation distance ca 200 m It was clearly smaller than Sooty shearwater and larger than Audubon&acute;s Shearwater. I saw it gliding sideways with its underside towards us. White below including wing undersides and a black head. All of a sudden it turned and much to our surprise it had a large white streak along the black wings. Its back appeared all black as its head. It did not have the mottled effect of a Cape Petrel and gave a very pied impression. Looking through our book (Harrison&acute;s Seabirds as only reference) there was only Antarctic Petrel possible. Way out of range and first for Peru we are of coarse a bit doubtful of this rather short observation. Some people of the party have considerably experience of Cape Petrel, including our boatman Julian (Who has 20 years of experience including trips with Ted Parker). All saying it was not a Cape Petrel. I am not a very avid seabirder I am afraid and have limited experience southern seabirds. None of our party has any experience of Antarctic Petrel. It would be nice to have more support to our observation in terms of other unusual records from Chile or elsewhere of the Antarctic seabirds coming this far north. I have limited access to newer literature than Harrison&acute;s "Seabirds" so comments would be appreciated." --Gunnar Engblom <telephone 51-1 365 03 97 VIA Craig Harrison <


Reuters and El Comercio of Lima report that world production of fish meal fell 23% from the previous year, with much of the decrease in Peru, falling from 2.15 million tonnes to 840,000 tonnes. Chile fell from 1.21 to 1.05 million tonnes. Sixty Peruvian fish meal plants were inactive.


"One of the more bizarre effects of the ongoing El Niño ocean warming phenomenon is a sudden invasion of grasshoppers in parts of western Arizona and southern Nevada. Swarms of palewing grasshoppers thrived in this year's moist and mild winter along the lower reaches of the Colorado River. Millions of them have descended on the cities of Laughlin, Nev., and Lake Havasu City, Ariz., causing traffic accidents when motorists slid across insect-covered roads.Street sweepers were dispatched to vacuum up masses of the hoppers and to haul them off to a landfill. Officials believe the insects will be swarming over the area until midsummer."--Earth Alert <


"Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority announced that coral reefs throughout Queensland are suffering some of the worst damage in recorded history. Spokesman Craig Sambell told reporters that high water temperatures and freshwater runoff have resulted in extensive coral bleaching, a condition that causes the marine animals to weaken, and possibly die. It occurs when the coral animals become stressed by environmental factors and expel algae, which normally gives them their bright colors and helps them feed. The coral may survive for brief periods without the algae, but a prolonged absence can lead to death. The Queensland coast has suffered from heavy inundation's during recent months, sending vast quantities of fresh water flowing into the Coral Sea and its barrier reefs. El Niño produced unusually warm ocean temperatures in the area, compounding the stress on the coral. Ongoing global warming may also be contributing to the loss of coral reefs across the southern oceans, according to Greenpeace climate campaigner Erwin Jackson."--Earth Alert <


"The AP, quoting an official from the Vietnamese Health Ministry's Department of Hygiene and Epidemics, has reported 39 fatalities from dengue fever thus far this year. The total number of cases is more than 14,000. The three top provinces are Ain Giang (over 3,000), Kien Gian (1,700) and Ben Tre (1,200), all of which are in the Mekong Delta.

The statistics for 1997 are 108 000 cases and more than 200 deaths, according to the same official."-- Dorothy Preslar < VIA ProMED-mail <


Reuters reported ten million may be at risk of starvation in nine states in Brazil's northeast in the worst drought since the 1983 ENSO. Over 1,000 towns are on the point of exhausting local resources to deal with the problem. Stan Lehman and Jack Epstein of Associated Press reports looting in a supermarket in Gravata as farmers sought food for their families in this town in northeastern Brazil, Similar looting has occurred in five other cities, following six months of drought related to EL Nino/Southern Oscillation effects. In one town, farmers carted off 17 tons of food for their families. Demonstrations such as road blockages and building occupations have occurred in 65 municipalities. The police have been ordered to guard regional food supply depots. People are eating rodents and vegetation. Even without ENSO, conditions in NW Brazil are marginal, with 40% of children malnourished in 'normal' years. In the early 1980's, including the 1983 - 1984 ENSO, 350,000 died in the area--VIA <


The Honolulu Advertiser reports that Fiji may have to shut down its water supply if the present drought


Reuters reports 55 dead and 85,000 evacuated as a result of a series of heavy rains since September that have caused $70 million in damage through flooding in Paraguay. In Argentina, the toll stands at 17 dead and 120,000 evacuated.


"I just returned from a short but fascinating tour of Johnston Island and Sand Island in the Johnston Atoll. One of the El-Nino-related phenomena observed there has been a heavy mortality of sooty terns. Apparently, just-fledged birds are having difficulty finding enough food and are dying in great numbers of starvation. Dead and dying birds are washing up on Johnston Island. No one appears to know exactly what the terns eat: other birds at Johnston National Wildlife Refuge appear to be thriving, so apparently the terns have some specialized diet that is suffering even as the food source for other species is thriving."--Pat Tummons <


The Associated Press reports that 1,500 tons of fish have already been killed since mid-March as warmer sea temperatures triggered outbreaks of red tide. Shellfish in local waters may be unfit for consumption because of a neurotoxic plantkon Alexandrium excavatum. Fish farm loses to date are $10.2 million.


Fishermens' News May 1998: "Sea surface temperatures remained 5 to 8 &deg;C above normal off Peru in March. Year to date fish meal production is substantially below what it was last year at this time. Total catch of anchovy and sardine for meal reduction through March 1998 is 37,000 mt compared with 1,012,000 mt through March 1997. The highest abnormal sea surface temperatures are off Paita and Tumbes on the north coast. Local authorities hope that some fishing will again start in late April but they do not expect normal fishing conditions to develop until November 1998. No anchovy fishing has been allowed since January 16 in Peru. Anchovy schools are present in the area but remain too deep to be caught by purse seines. Anchovies that have been taken appear to be normal sized and mature, ready for spawning. In February and early March, floods ruined equipment in several fish meal plants on the north coast. The recently privatized plants had just refitted with modern fish meal and oil equipment which was not insured and thus the losses will have to be borne by the owners. The Peruvian Red Cross estimates El Nino caused flooding has killed 137 people and made 234,000 people homeless in Peru."--JAJfish <


EnviroLink News Service reports that heavy rainfall linked to ENSO has caused the worst disaster "in the country's history" with 9,300 evacuated and with local damage to the rice crop. Problems are expected to continue for several more months.--EnviroLink News Service:" <


"Navajo health officials on Wednesday were cited as reporting the first death on the Navajo Indian Reservation in four years blamed on hantavirus. The victim was identified as a 23-year-old man from San Juan County in northwestern New Mexico.This case, and a reported hantavirus fatality in Cordado two weeks ago, has spurred tribal officials to put out notices warning tribal members of the possibility of another outbreak. In 1993, six Navajos died and several others had to undergo treatment for the disease when the first major breakout occurred in the United States. Officials for the New Mexico Department of Health were cited as saying that statewide tests have found deer mice testing positive for hantavirus in nearly every area."--ANIMALNET VIA Robert A. LaBudde < ON ProMED-mail <


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports El Nino has affected duck hunting in some parts of the U.S. was reduced as ENSO-related conditions caused ducks to disperse and perhaps not to migrate as far south, because of warmer northern conditions. Fall hunting started well but declined in the South , while elsewhere ducks failed to concentrate. <


"A preliminary report on the New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) epidemic that occurred in January/February 1998 is now on the Massey University Home Page ( It may be located by opening Faculties and Schools, then Veterinary Science, and then Research Activities."--Padraig J. Duignan < VIA Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA.


U.S. News & World Report, page 59, quotes Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado as suggesting that the severity of recent ENSO events (two 100-year events 14 years apart-Ed.) may be linked to global warming.


"Dengue fever, had affected 16 provinces in Indonesia as of April 30, killing at least 531 people, officials said. The present spread of the disease is very fast and two weeks ago only 11 provinces were affected, Dr. Thomas Suroso, director general of communicable disease and environmental health, and Dr. P.R. Arbani, regional advisor on malaria with the World Health Organization, said here Friday. Over 19,000 people have contracted the disease, which broke out in January this year. Experts predicted that it is expected to peak over May and June, but continued community awareness of the disease should prevent it from claiming more victims. Jakarta, has been worst hit by dengue fever this year. As of April 30, the dengue epidemic had killed 62 people in the city, said Suroso. Arbani said Jakarta's high population makes it very susceptible to dengue fever. "In fact, the current dengue fever epidemic has hit other parts of the globe. The wave of the disease has spread in Thailand, Myanmar and some countries in South America," he added. Last year, dengue fever killed 240 people and affected 13,207 others in Indonesia." ["Other news reports indicate that many Southeast Asian countries, particularly, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, are bracing for their worst dengue fever epidemic in years." - Mod.CHC] --CNN Interactive - 4 May (Edited) VIA Clyde Markon < --ProMED-mail <

5 - 6 MAY 1998. MEXICO: FIRES

Reuters, Associated Press and report 23 dead in the states of Puebla and Veracruz as forest fires killed villagers and firefighters. Over 500 were evacuated in the latest in over 9,000 fires that have scorched more than 500,000 acres in an ENSO related drought. About 100 fires are currently active <


Jahabar Sadiq of Reuters reports that the ENSO-related drought in Sabah has fed to critical shortages of both food and water. Streams have dried up and agricultural fields are barren or have burned, leading to a critical situation in Matunggong, Kota Marudu, Sipitang and Keningau districts where 12,000 face starvation. The local government minister for social services stated: "They are not starving, although it is true they are facing food shortages as a result of the prevailing drought". <


The province of Alberta is battling a series of fires that have swept through its prairies and forests, forcing many to evacuate their homes.--Environmental Newswire <


"Recent fatal human hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) cases, one each in Colorado and New Mexico, plus a non-fatal HPS case in Arizona and a non-fatal (at this time) HPS case in New Mexico has people in this part of the world (southwestern USA) justifiably nervous. Ecologic conditions vary from local to location, of course, but in general, recent observations have been of increases in rodent populations and increased prevalence of antibody to Sin Nombre virus, likely a result of two wet, relatively warm El Nino/Southern Oscillation winters. The next month should allow determinations as to whether conditions are suitable for a repeat of the 1993 situation, when HPS and Sin Nombre virus were first recognized. Unfortunately, the only way to test the predictive model is to experience another outbreak. After that, prediction should be easier." Charles H. Calisher < VIA ProMED-mail <


[This is another update of the dengue situation in New Caledonia, based on the latest official report from the Department of Health of New Caledonia. Thanks to Dr. JP Grangeon and Nancy Klingler for keeping PACNET focal point posted - TK]. As mentioned in previous messages, the weekly number of new cases has been still continuously increasing since December 1997; 1,819 cases were notified from 1 January to 4 May 1998; 938 of the 943 new cases for which the type of dengue was confirmed were type 2 dengue -- the 5 remaining ones were type 3 dengue (reported in the previous update); no other confirmed type 3 dengue new case has been reported since the last update. No death was reported. Dengue seems to be mainly a problem in the area of and around Noumea: the major part of the new cases of the 4 weeks prior to 4 May 1998 are from Noumea (32.4%) and Mont-Dore (15.8%), the rest being from all over the territory (with some exceptions like "Ile des Pins" where no cases have been reported at all in 1998). The weekly number of clinical new cases (including the confirmed ones) from the week starting on 24/11/97 (week 48 of 1997) to the week starting on 27/04/98 (week 18 of 1998) is shown below:




Number of dengue new cases










































































(*) The number of reported cases for the last weeks may be incomplete. The Department of Heath is still aggressively applying perifocal vector control measures including insecticide spraying and reduction of mosquito breeding sites.-- Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network <PACNET@LISTSERV.SPC.ORG.NC & Tom Kiedrzynski <TomK@SPC.ORG.NC VIA ProMED-mail <


"In April, California Governor Wilson issued a fishery disaster declaration for selected fishermen due to the 97-98 El Nino. This will enable them to be eligible for small business association low-interest loans and federal disaster unemployment assistance (which is administered by the states). Squid landings began falling in July 1997 as waters warmed, and recorded landings so far in 1998 have been far below last years' harvest levels during the first two months of the year. Virtually no squid had been caught as of March 30, 1998 whereas more than 100 million pounds were landed last year during the period. Herring fishermen have also harvested less than one percent of their authorized quota, and fish that were landed showed signs of low body fat and some of the females showed signs of egg resorption. Sea urchin divers have taken less than ten percent of the catch usually achieved by this time of year. Estimated losses to the commercial fishing industry in California from this El Nino are estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.


"The media have gone into a feeding frenzy over Yellow-eyed Penguins over the last few days and from the calls I have had from overseas news agencies, this event is travelling all over the world at a rapid rate. We have now had reports of 18 dead chicks and 3 adults over the last two weeks. In all instances birds appear to have starved to death with weights less than half of fledging, mostly <2.7. The distribution of dead birds is unusual in that we have had one report of a banded chick being recovered on a north Island West Coast beach, as far as I can gather, the first on the west coast and about as far north as they have ever been recorded. Again, a number of birds banded on the Otago Peninsula have turned up dead well south of their natal area. Given that in the 18 years of this study we have only recorded two or three birds south of their natal area, it is unusual to report at least three recoveries. The breeding season itself was great with a very high fledging rate, chick weights were not brilliant, but well within the normal range. Most chicks fledged mid Feb- March."--John Darby <


"The dengue fever epidemic is continuing into its fifth month throughout Fiji, with 24,780 suspected cases and 1,708 hospitalisations reported from Ministry of Health facilities since it began in late December. Three percent of the population has been affected to date. While the epidemic seems to have slowed down considerably in the past month, the virus continues to be transmitted at a high rate in some areas. The most recent death due to dengue occurred on 11 April on Kabara Island in the Lau Island group, bringing the total to 13 since the first death was reported on December 25th, 1997.

Transmission in the Western Division appears to have slowed greatly thanks to well organised control efforts. However, dengue cases continue to be reported and there have been 42 hospital admissions in the last three weeks for dengue haemorrhagic fever.

The Central Division reports a rise in cases from Naitasiri, a rural province outside of Suva, and the Eastern Division has noted rises in cases from Vanua Balavu, Kabara and some other islands. Notably, Kadavu island has reported very few cases in recent weeks.

In the Northern Division, Labasa Hospital has reported 40 admissions in the last three weeks, many with at least 34 infections confirmed by laboratory tests. Unfortunately, other areas in the Northern Division have not submitted reports during that time period, making the exact picture unclear in areas of Vanua Levu outside of Labasa and Taveuni.


Table 1. Patients presenting at Ministry of Health Facilities with clinically suspected Dengue Fever since 22 December 1997, as of 6 May 1998, including hospital admissions, attack rates (per 1000 population), trends in weekly case loads, and total percentage of cases by Medical Subdivision.





Attack rate*

Percent ofcases

Eastern Viti Levu






Western Viti Levu






Vanua Levu/Taveuni**






Outer Islands












Fiji Total






Total cases







* per 1,000 persons ** Only Labasa Hospital reported --David Saunders <saunders_d@ITC.GOV.FJ VIA ProMED-mail <


CRS/SARO - El Niño Response Coordinator: Lesotho Food Security and Response; Capacity Assessment, Field Validation Visit Report, March 18th through March 26, 1998


"Lesotho was reported to be among the countries worst affected by El Nino 97/98. Crop forecasts are about 30% the already low 96/97 season. Lesotho Government sources report severe food shortages in vulnerable districts. Some international organizations and NGO's argue in favor of emergency food relief interventions. The CRS/SARO visit was to assess these food crisis reports and to evaluate partners capacity to respond to such an emergency and to engage in mitigation activities to increase preparedness for future crises.

During this assessment and validation mission we were able to observe directly the crop and livestock conditions in the main production areas in the Highlands, Foothills and Lowlands districts. We also interviewed Lesotho Government officials in the Ministry of Agriculture and the Disaster Management Authority, official representatives of the major international agencies (WFP, FAO, UNICEF, FEWS, USEMB) concerned with the situation, as well as officers of the most active local and international NGO's. The following is a summary of our findings:

1. We found no evidence of significant food shortages which may require emergency short term relief intervention. The reports indicating severe shortages in some areas could not be verified on site. There is a shortage of hard field data on the crop and household food situation. Reports suggesting severe food access difficulties and signs of emerging famine are not based on direct surveys or close observation. We did not detect the activation of the early coping mechanisms that would announce the start of a food crisis situation.

2. Despite the lack of reliable information some international agencies have made available food for emergency distribution. Euronaid has committed 15,000 mt and some NGO's (possibly including CARITAS) may participate in the operation. Insufficient field information will make it difficult to target distribution to the most affected areas and sectors.

3. Although a combination of harmful weather patterns did harm cereal crops in Lesotho, the country's chronic food shortages can not be attributed to climatic anomalies. During the past decade Lesotho has had to import about 50% of its cereal consumption needs. Current estimates for the 98/99 marketing season suggest import requirements of about 300,000 mt of cereals or about 58% of its consumption needs.

4. Normally Lesotho pays for its food imports through open market mechanisms. The principal millers who import grain from South Africa report normal demand patterns in this pre harvest lean period. Other indicators support the view that there is sufficient and possibly expanding purchasing power in all but a few very specific social sectors to pay for food requirements.

5. Expansion and diversification of income sources improves food security situation. Independent studies of the evolution of household income in Lesotho identify important changes in the past decade that reduce food access problems for large sectors of the population, and reduce the need for governmental and/or international food relief interventions. A more detailed description of the changes taking place in purchasing power is included in the body of this report.

6. Lesotho's food problems are not caused by drought or lack of water. Water is the country's most important and abundant natural resource. It is misleading to describe the country's agriculture as vulnerable to drought or shortage of rainfall.

7. International and national agricultural experts point to 3 factors to explain the low food production in the country: 1) Topography, soil and climate do not favor the cultivation of maize which is now grown in as much as 70% of the arable land; 2) The almost total absence of water harvesting, management and irrigation system makes all agriculture dependent on erratic rainfall; and 3) Monocropping, inadequate seed and generally inappropriate cultivation techniques decrease yields and increase farmers risks discouraging planting.

8. There is notable agreement among experts on the types of changes to be promoted in Lesotho to increase food self sufficiency, these are: 1) Reduce drastically the proportion of land used in maize single cropping and shift planting to horticulture, fruit trees, and high value short cycle crops; 2) Increase livestock value and income by improving breeds, more appropriate grass varieties, and feed storage facilities for the winter season; and 3) Launch a large scale water management based soil preservation and rehabilitation program to sustain irrigation schemes for horticulture.

9. The Lesotho Government institutions (Ministry of Agriculture Extension Services and the Disaster Management Authority networks) that would be required to play a leading role in a food emergency operation, or in an agricultural transformation strategy as outlined lack the appropriately trained staff, the infrastructure and the links to the farming communities required. No meaningful strategy to increase food production could succeed in Lesotho without the commitment of significant resources to the strengthening of these institutional networks.

10. The local and international NGO's operating in Lesotho could execute an emergency food distribution operation in the event of a major natural or man made disruption. With the apparent growth in purchasing power in the urban centers the need for a major intervention of this kind is unlikely. NGO's could also play a supporting role in the implementation of a strategy of transformation of the agricultural practices in the country but their effectiveness is limited by their lack of coordination and their individual agendas.

11. CRS partners in the CARITAS network, within the 450 primary and secondary schools of the Catholic Church, and through its health and services missions are the strongest NGO structure in the country. Unfortunately its enormous potential to be part of the changes required is severely hindered by a lack of developmental focus and a shortage of well trained technical staff and teachers to lead this process. Church leadership is aware of these needs and is looking for international assistance from Catholic donors to undertake this internal transformation. Report prepared by Gino Lofredo, El Niño Response Coordinator, Catholic Relief Services, Southern Africa Regional Office <

Apparent and probable causes of the decline in food production in Lesotho:

The average annual cereal production in Lesotho has dropped from 215,282 mt in the 1970's, to 160,736 mt in the 1980's to 157,907 mt in the 1990's. The average annual cereal requirements instead have increased from 260,017 mt in the 1970's to about 400,000 mt in the 1990's. The average annual shortfall as % of requirements has increased from 17% in the 1970's to 50% in the 1980's to 61% in the 1990's. This decline can not be attributed to the erratic weather patterns which have been a constant presence in Lesotho.

Many sources continue to attribute the fall in agricultural production in the 97/98 season to the effects of the El Nino weather pattern in Southern Africa. These assertions have no basis. First, it is now agreed that El Nino had little impact on the weather pattern in the region in the 97/98 season. Second, the weather anomalies that affected Lesotho since August 97 -- while apparently more severe than in other seasons --conform to a recurrent pattern of erratic rains, rapid temperature changes, and shifting seasonal calendars described by early missionary settlers in the mid 19th century and before by diverse Basutho accounts.

Several simplistic characterizations of the agricultural and livestock environment often cited as principal causes of the decline in food production need to be reconsidered:

Lesotho's food problems are not caused by drought or lack of water. Water is the country's most important and abundant natural resource. While regions of the country may face periods of insufficient rainfall, the country has literally incalculable natural sources of water available year around from natural springs, highland frost, and intense though unpredictable rains in most areas. Most of these water sources are not adequately measured. A team of hydrologists estimated it would take six years to fill the Katse Dam catchment area. It filled in two years. It is misleading to describe the country as vulnerable to drought. Excessive water in the absence of a meaningful water management strategy (excluding the Katse Dam complex) is a source of serious agricultural difficulties in the Foothills and Lowlands. Properly managed, the water available beyond that exported to South Africa could sustain four seasons crops in the agricultural areas.

The problem in Lesotho is not a lack of arable land but the inappropriate and wasteful use of existing prime agricultural land, particularly in the Lowlands. Lesotho's arable and grazing lands -- though seriously threatened by erosion and urban expansion -- could increase dramatically the food access of all sectors of the population. Agriculturalists and geographers point out that only about 10% of the country's total area is suitable for agriculture. They further note that this area is shrinking at an alarming rate due to erosion and unplanned expansion of urban areas. This figure of 10% underestimates the Highland areas suitable for wheat, sorghum and fresh vegetable cultivation (which in the current season are doing relatively well). But the most serious limitations to production are the inadequate agricultural practices. The vast majority of this land is planted with maize, which is most vulnerable to erratic rainfall, and from a comparative advantage one of the worst economic investments. A rapid survey in the lowlands shows seriously inappropriate agricultural practices: monocropping with maize, minimal use of improved seeds, very little horticulture and fruit trees, practically no water management and irrigation schemes, insufficient weeding and cultivation, little or no pest control, very limited crop rotation, a high percentage of fields not planted.

Population growth is not a sufficient explanation of the worsening food self sufficiency. First of all, latest census figures show that the Lesotho population is growing at a much slower rate than projected a few years ago: latest count shows 12% less people than expected and nobody knows what happened to them. Second, the diversification of employment and the subsequent increase in purchasing power expands the market for agricultural products and -- when accompanied by shifts in crops and drastic improvements in cultivation techniques -- becomes the most important incentive to increased agriculture and livestock production. It is true that Lesotho could not supply the maize consumption requirements of its population even under improved growing conditions. But it could produce a broad range of other mostly non cereal products, fruits and vegetables for the local and South African markets and expand the importation of the staple cereal requirements.

Evidence suggest that despite declines in production Lesotho does not need to depend on external food aid to meet its consumption requirements. This contrary view is shared tacitly if not explicitly by some international agencies and NGO's, and, most unfortunately, by some Lesotho Government officials at the national and district level within the Disaster Management Authority and in some departments of the Ministry of Agriculture. No one denies that food aid provided through any of the many schemes available might be justified for some extreme cases of natural or man made catastrophes in Lesotho. However: 1) The Lesotho Government is expected to have incomes to maintain a sufficient grain reserve to respond to such emergencies without external intervention; 2) Lesotho is not immune to all the cultural, economic and political problems that become the unintended consequences of humanitarian food relief operations such as: * reinforcement of passive and dependent cultural attitudes among people and public and private institutions; * reduction of incentives to improve production and do mitigation activities to prepare for recurrent crop problems; * distortions in the food supply marketing mechanisms; * pernicious opportunities for the use of food assistance for political objectives; * proliferation of opportunities for misappropriation of resources for private benefit. And 3) External food assistance interventions take the pressure off the government and the population to address decisively those causes of food access difficulties which could be corrected by changes in agricultural practices, livestock breeding and environmental preservation."--Gino Lofredo, CRS/SARO, e-mail, phone 2634 - 792072, or Mark Jones, CRS/Madagascar, e-mail, phone 2612 - 226534.


Natalie Phillips writing in the Anchorage Daily News reported that since February reports from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Common Murres Uria aalge have been reported dead and dying from the Aleutians to Prince William Sound in numbers that may total tens of thousand. Warm water conditions associated with ENSO may be depriving them of access to their normal prey. A similar mortality occurred in the 1983 ENSO event.-- VIA (van Vliet; Gus)


State: Mexico City, D.F., Mexico, National Observatory at Tacubaya: Air temperature: 33.9ÉC. All time high for Mexico City of 33.9ÉC on May 9, 1998. Temperature measurements have been recorded since 1881."-- F. Belaunzaran.


Source: CNN Interactive News - SINGAPORE, May 10 (Edited): "Dengue cases have risen sharply in Singapore and if not checked would reach a record this year, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. It quoted the environment ministry as saying there were 1786 cases in the first four months of the year, almost double that in the same period last year. The number of dengue cases has been rising steadily over the past six years to hit a high of 4300 in 1997, the ministry said.

Local newspapers have reported that dengue fever killed three people in 1996 and one last year. Last year, 1172 construction sites were found breeding the _Aedes_ mosquito, the paper said."--Clyde Markon < ON ProMED-mail <


Impact on food security and needs for emergency response Field Situation Report Catholic Relief Services/ Southern Africa Regional Office May 10th, 1998


"The locust infestation in Madagascar has now spread from the southern dry zones to the midwest and northern more fertile regions threatening to inflict severe additional damage to staple crops and cattle pastures in normally locust free agricultural areas around the country. The locust invasion is beyond short term control. The areas contaminated, the density of the swarms, and their unprecedented rate of reproduction indicate that the invasion will not be contained in the current season. Locust did not have a significant impact on rice, maize and cassava crops harvested in April and May. But pastures were affected and cattle will suffer as the dry season advances through September.

Madagascar suffers from chronic food shortages and malnutrition levels are high under normal conditions. Agricultural and locust experts anticipate that the crops now in the fields and the 98/99 maize and rice crops will be affected by the plague.

Even a relatively small drop of 10% to 25% in agricultural yields could have very serious health and nutritional consequences in a country where an important segment of the rural and urban population face constant food access problems.

Early warning signs of food shortages are already present in many agricultural districts affected by locust. The food crisis in the making in Madagascar may become fully evident as early as September 1998. Resources from the international community to contain the spread of the plague are urgently needed. A 3 to 5 year campaign may be required. Measures to protect crops have to be put in place without delay. Food relief organizations must update contingency plans and prepare for a likely food emergency to erupt before the end of the calendar year. These findings are based on an intensive two week field assessment visit by Catholic Relief Services to the locust infested areas of Southern Madagascar and on numerous interviews with international experts, NGO's and Government of Madagascar officials in the capital.


Locust damage on crops and pastures in the south of the country varies from severe in some agricultural areas to no damage in others. The food security situation is not critical in the current agricultural season. The fortunate timing of the most intense locust invasions allowed maize and rice crops to be harvested without major losses.

Medecins San Frontieres (Switzerland) reports that nutrition has improved as maize and cassava were harvested. Rice yields are normal. Damage to pastures is widespread and cattle may be affected as the dry season progresses. But so far in the locust zone animals appear in good health. However experts anticipate that the growth in the locust population may pose serious problems to the next harvests. Even a relatively small drop of 10% to 25% in agricultural yields could have very serious health and nutritional consequences in a country where an important segment of the rural and urban population suffers chronic food shortages.


Locust plagues have affected the island with recurrent severity for centuries. The last major invasion started in 1939 and lasted 18 years until 1957. The current invasion can be traced to 1992 when incursions of crickets were reported beyond the boundaries of their normal breeding areas. From 1994 to 1996 the locust population increased steadily and experts alerted that a full fledged invasion was in the making. At that time the recommended limited and low cost fumigation strategy on the 150,000 hectares affected would have prevented the spread.

The advance of the locust infestation is beyond short term control. The areas infested, the density of the swarms, and their unprecedented rate of reproduction indicate that the invasion will not be contained in the current season.

Lack of timely interventions by the government of Madagascar and by international agencies allowed the locust to reproduce unmolested at the rate of 4 to 5 generations per year for three consecutive seasons. The areas infested and requiring pesticide spraying are estimated at 5 million to 8 million hectares . As much as two thirds of the country may be infested.

Replacing the crop losses for the next three seasons with food assistance at market value would cost international donors in excess of 100 million US dollars.


Only a 3 to 5 year intensive curative intervention requiring resources currently not available in the country could push back the infestation to the controllable normal breeding areas in the South. Implementing the locust control campaign may cost over U$S 50 million largely for aircraft, pesticides, fuel, transport and communications.

FAO experts in charge of the locust eradication campaign in Madagascar have mapped out a comprehensive intervention strategy that identifies which forms of action (aerial spraying, collective close crop protection, and perimeter fumigation), ought to be applied at which times in the locust development cycles, and in which areas of the country. In the course of this intervention a permanent network for preventive interventions and control actions would be set up.


These experts have identified the equipment, supplies and personnel required for this campaign. Requests for international resources for these inputs have been circulated in the donor community by FAO and the Government of Madagascar. A significant amount of funds was committed but they have not been disbursed in time to take advantage of the May to September period when locust are vulnerable to interventions. The exponential increase of the locust population implies that allowing one more generation to emerge could double the areas infested.

Although for the short term the strategy emphasizes intensive aerial fumigation which is an activity not suited for NGO's or for agencies like CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES there are other essential, community based and innovative interventions which could and should be set in motion at the same time.


The Malagasy military which is becoming seriously involved in the anti locust campaign wants to support aerial fumigation with land based manual spraying of crops and field perimeters. Church and other NGO sponsored projects also encourage local farmers to protect their staple crops by spraying the fields directly. However appropriate low toxicity insecticides are not available in the quantities needed. In many cases unnecessarily motorized pumps are idle for lack of fuel, maintenance or pesticide. This approach requires some simple training and community involvement which NGO's can provide and large international agencies can not. Agronomists trying to estimate the extent of the damage already done by locust on the crops in the affected areas point out that even if this approach does not eradicate the infestation completely it would reduce crop losses significantly.


Spraying imported pesticides -- even if they are said to have little or no impact on non targetted life forms -- is environmentally risky and much too expensive for Madagascar. The pesticide now being used with good results is Rhone Poulenc's Fipronil, trademarked Adonis. For some time USAID has supported research and development of biological locust control agents with the University of Montana's Madagascar project. The scientists have identified several native fungi or mushrooms which have been proven effective in fighting locust.

A mushroom growing method suitable for decentralized small scale initiatives is said to be ready for replication. Although this form of control is unlikely to be used widely in the next year, it could be the centerpiece of a crop and perimeter protection and containment activity in the future. Depending on how it is organized, the production could create jobs and small enterprises to supplement rural incomes. Church and NGO organizations could combine the introduction of biocontrol practices with the more short term effective crop protection spraying.


Madagascar is three times the size of England. Its roads and general infrastructure have deteriorated severely in the past chaotic twenty odd years since independence. Communication systems are limited and adequate transport rare. National and provincial government structures are weak. Even the military have serious difficulties responding to the disasters that hit the island regularly: cyclones, drought, floods and locust invasions. A strategy for improving the response capacity to emergencies in Madagascar must emphasize decentralization and self sufficiency. If and when the current invasion is contained and the locust is pushed back, a permanent, decentralized network of community based units will have to take charge and promote the adoption of farming practices aimed at preventing the recurrence of runaway infestations. CRS and other international and local NGO's can play an important role in support of these local initiatives.


In general the response capacity of national relief organizations is limited. National and international NGO's face diverse logistical and cultural obstacles to development activities, disaster mitigation programs and even relief operations. However experienced Protestant and Catholic church are active throughout the country and have expressed their willingness to engage in emergency responses.

The first Catholic presence in Madagascar was reported in 1665. Permanent Catholic Missions in the South were started in Fort Dauphin by Paulist priests and the Sisters of Charity in 1895. While the transition from a European to a Malagasy Church is almost complete there are still many European and other non African priests working in Madagascar. Difficulties in transport and communications have made it difficult for international agencies to respond effectively to development and relief needs in remote rural areas such as those currently affected by the locust invasion.


"Lutte antiacridienne a Madagascar", Jean-Francis Duranton, FAO. March 22, 1998. Report reviews the development of the current crisis and extrapolates its evolution around the country. Evaluates what is being done, what is required and the resources needed. Mr. Duranton is the best informed specialist on the locust invasion in Madagascar.

"Madagascar Locust Invasion: Anecdotes from the valala trail", United States Agency for International Development, USAID, Food Security and Disaster Unit, Madagascar, March/April 98. Report based on field observations of the locust presence in the midwest region which is normally not affected by the infestation.

Bulletin SAP # 15, March 1998. This is the current issue of the monthly bulletin of the Systeme d'Alerte Precoce (Early Warning System). The report presents an in depth evaluation of the crop damages caused by locust in each of the 87 "communes" which make up the southern part of Madagascar. SAP receives financial support from the European Union. SAP data is used by food assistance agencies to identify the specific areas most vulnerable to food shortages.

Madagascar, World Food Program (WFP)'s Information Update from the Southern Africa Regional Office in Maputo, April 24th, 1998. Reviews impact of El Nino and other weather related anomalies on food production and food assistance needs.

"A History of Madagascar", Mervyn Brown, Damien Tunnacliffe Publishers, 1995. Brief English language general history through the 1990's highlighting English Protestant missionaries early presence in Madagascar.

"Le peuple des pirogues et le diocèse de Farafangana", Pere Joseph Benoit, Editorial L'Harmattan, France, 1997. Chronology and activities of Catholic Missionaries with emphasis on the southern and southeastern coastal region." --Gino Lofredo, CRS/SARO, e-mail <, phone 2634 - 792072; Mark Jones, CRS/Madagascar, e-mail <, phone 2612 - 226534 or 261 - 33 - 1101560.


Source: CNN International (Edited) "HANOI, May 11 -- A total of 50 Vietnamese died from dengue fever during the first quarter of this year, the Vietnam News reported Monday. During the period, dengue-infected people numbered 13,528, or 238.8 percent higher than in the same period last year. In 1997, dengue fever was the fourth major disease and the largest killer in the country, with a total of 77,370 people infected and 222 [dead]. The disease is most rampant in the south, and most patients are children."--Clyde Markon < VIA ProMED-mail <


Source: South China Morning Post - 11 May [Excerpts]: Dengue fever sweeping through Southeast Asia is threatening Hong Kong as more cases are being imported, a medical expert warns. The mosquito-borne disease has killed nearly 500 people in Indonesia this year and has left tens of thousands seriously ill. It has also claimed lives in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Up to the end of March, Hong Kong had four recorded cases - one from Thailand, one from Vietnam and two from Indonesia. The number is already nearly half last year's total of 10 cases and the concern is that as the disease peaks during Southeast Asia's forthcoming rainy season, more people will bring the virus to Hong Kong, says Dr Lo Wing-lok, infectious disease expert for the Hong Kong Medical Association.

Four cases in three months is already "quite high", he said. "But it's not entirely unexpected because there are so many cases in neighbouring regions." There have been no recorded local cases, although dengue fever only became a notifiable disease in Hong Kong in 1994 when there were three cases. In 1995 there were six cases.

A Department of Health spokesman said a campaign against mosquito breeding had been launched. Sponsored by the two municipal councils, the aim is to remove stagnant water to eliminate the mosquitoes' favoured breeding grounds." --Clyde Markon < VIA ProMED-mail <


Associated Press reports that the wet weather of this EN event will lead to increased rodent populations which will in turn bring a bumper crop of rattlesnakes which eat the rodents.


"We're getting El Nino rain according to TV weather forecasters. Bay Area broke its records in some respects. One is the amount of rain this month is already is double average as at yesterday, May 11. I believe it is the most recorded for May. Also, more (consecutive?) days of rain ever recorded."--C. W. Gilbert <


Joseph Silha of Reuters reports that U.S. weather forecasters believe ENSO will generate wetter and cooler than normal conditions in the southwest and central U.S. through June, with summer heat hitting in July as ENSO's influence fades. Central and eastern parts of the U.S. are expected to experience "anomalous heat"--<


"Sardine schools have made an appearance here at the Bamfield Marine Station, Bamfield, British Columbia, West Coast of Vancouver Island. Dr. Sue Sanders advised that according to a source in California the sardines have not appeared off the coast there yet. According to Dr. Sanders, sardines are not common in these waters and their appearance is of some concern." R. C. De Graaf <rdegraaf@UVic.CA.


PACIFIC COAST OCEANOGRAPHY AND FISHERIES-APRIL 98--Excerpts from the NOAA/NESDIS El Nino Watch Advisory 98-4 for April 1998: "El Nino conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific remained strong in April with positive sea surface temperatures anomalies greater than 5.4 degrees F east of 90 degrees W longitude and greater than 3.6 degrees F east of 130 degrees W. A negative subsurface temperature anomaly indicative of mature warm episode conditions continues to expand from the western Pacific into eastern Pacific waters as far as 120 degrees W. Modelers predict that equatorial conditions will return to normal by June-July. Sea surface temperature anomalies along the US west coast were about 1 degree F less than those observed in March, though they still continue to be about 2-3 degrees F above normal. A core of cooler than normal water persists 350 miles offshore central California.

Research cruises in April (NMFS and SIO) found that while surface temperatures were near or slightly above normal in coastal waters of southern and central California, subsurface temperatures at a depth of 300 ft were 4.5 degrees F above normal in coastal waters and as much as 9 degrees F warmer than normal beyond 100 miles offshore. Zooplankton volumes were low for this time of year but heavy spawning of sardine was observed north of Point Conception to San Francisco, and a high incidence of jack mackerel spawning in offshore waters. Upwelling indices in April were near normal along the US west coast, though upwelling was slightly below normal in Southern California. Salmon fishermen along the Pacific coast have reported below normal-sized fish showing up in the salmon runs. Seals and sea lions appear to be extremely stressed, with very low pup survival observed in breeding colonies [California]. Occurrence of larval rockfish off central California in surveyed areas was found to be very low, indicating poor recruitment." VIA


"I just spent a seven day vacation in Bermuda, and all seven days were ruined by a stalled low pressure area....most of the natives said they never saw anything like it for the month of May. Is there anyway that that might have been attributable to a disruption of normal weather patterns by the ENSO? If you cannot answer that question, do you know anyone who might be able to? Thanks ahead of time for any info you can provide."--Stephen R. Clough<


The Associated Press and Reuters report more than 9,000 forest fires in Mexico this year, up almost 90% from last year, with 247 fires were still burning. Fire has affected more than 600,000 acres. Honduras has had 1,500 fires this year, destroying more than 740,000 acres. Additional fires are occurring in Guatemala and El Salvador. An ENSO-linked drought is believed to be responsible. Plumes of smoke have caused unhealthy air quality as far as Texas, southern California, the Florida Panhandle, Georgia and Louisiana. One person died in Mexico from smoke-related problems. Twenty-seven Mexican fire-fighters have died. Other deaths because of dehydration during the heat wave are also reported.


"CALIFORNIA CURRENT, CENTRAL CALIFORNIA, MAY 1998. On a 6-d cruise in waters overlying the shelf break and beyond, during the first week of May, repeating studies we have been conducting annually since 1985, we encountered the lowest marine bird and mammal densities of the entire study period. Lowest densities previous were last fall. As examples, we saw 3 Black-footed Albatross, when usually we would encounter several dozen at this time of year. Most abundant species was Sooty Shearwater, but only a few hundred (instead of thousands). Marine mammals were almost nonexistent; included were two dead fur seals. The 10 C isotherm was at about 100 m; usually at this time of year it is at or near the surface. There was virtually no thermocline and SST, around 14C, was warmer even than our last cruise in March." --David Ainley <


Environmental Newswire reports TOPEX/Poseidon satellite data show sea surface temperatures in the Pacific are expected to remain above normal through the spring. Sealevel in the eastern Pacific has been normal since March.--Environmental Newswire <


The Honolulu Advertiser reports that the Hoa Binh reservoir has dropped to 274 feet in the current ENSO drought. If the water level drops another 28 feet, the hydroelectric plant will be unable to function. Seventy percent of the country's power comes from hydro sources and production is threatened in what has become the country's worse drought in a century.


"Puaiohi nesting season is out of character with a much lower nesting success and nesting effort this year than the last two-three years. We've observed numerous cases of nest predation, mostly rats (our first). No Nukupuu or any of the other rare/extinct species on Kauai."--Tom Snetsinger <

"Tom's recent comments about Puaiohi nesting success (or lack thereof) prompts me to make a few comments that I neglected earlier based on my Feb-Mar trip. It appears that this is an anomalous year for Hawaiian birds, undoubtedly the result of the worldwide El Nino weather situation. For the first time in years, my group missed Palila at Puu Laau, and this at a time when they should have been conspicuous and singing loudly. The habitat was very obviously water stressed, with the naio leaves shrivelled and dangling. There were plenty of mamane green pods, a good source of moisture for survival but probably not a sufficient food source for feeding young. In Waikamoi, we encountered the first rain in weeks (according to TNCH personnel), and while the habitat did not appear as stressed as the mamane/naio forest, birds in general were very quiet and ohia bloom was not what I expected for this season. As with Puu Laau, this should have been the best time of year for vocalization and setting up of territories, but we heard no Akohekohe or parrotbills, and only one singing alauahio.

My hypothesis is that Hawaiian birds faced with drought conditions simply postpone breeding until the situation improves. This would help explain why the breeding season is so protracted for many species, at least when averaged over many years. Maybe it is not so protracted in any given year. The question is whether birds will breed late this year or just skip a season. We should all be observant of any indications either way. It could be valuable information for future management decisions. One thing to watch for is whether native birds will have a spectacular rebound next year (assuming weather patterns return to normal)."--Doug Pratt <


The Honolulu Advertiser reports a Mililani (Oahu) woman "tested positive" for dengue fever. The test may be a false positive. No cases of dengue have originated from Hawaii since 1947 (although cases are imported: seven in 1997, none so far this year); however, the woman had not traveled to areas of dengue-risk outside the state. Contact listed as Patrick Johnston 808-586-4586.


WER, May 15, 1998, Vol. 73, No. 20: "[This contains Rift Valley fever case numbers (a startling 89,000 human cases) I had not seen before. Nevertheless, much of the following is not new to our subscribers and may not be very informative. However, we do have some readers who may appreciate this for background information. Other subscribers may take exception to certain statements in this message. Feel free to send your comments to me < I will consolidate the postable ones and post them at a later date. - Mod.CHC]"

"In recent years there has been growing interest in links between El Nino (and other extreme weather events) and human health. A number of studies have demonstrated that pronounced changes in the incidence of diseases can occur in parallel with the extreme weather conditions associated with the El Nino cycle.

"El Nino" is the familiar term given to the Christ child in Latin American Spanish. It is also used to describe an anomaly in the flow of ocean waters along the west coast of South America, which can occur around Christmas time - hence El Nino. This anomaly is the result of the nutrient-rich cold water of the coastal Humboldt Current being replaced by eastward-flowing warm ocean water (which is nutrient poor) from the equatorial Pacific. El Nino events have occurred every 3 to 5 years, on average, since meteorological records began in 1877, and they are associated with catastrophic declines in fisheries along the Pacific coast of South America.

The Southern Oscillation (SO) is a large-scale atmospheric "see-saw" centred over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The variation in pressure is accompanied in surrounding areas by fluctuations in wind strengths, ocean currents, sea surface temperatures and precipitation. The SO and the warm waters of the El Nino are part of the same climate phenomenon referred to as ENSO (El Nino/ Southern Oscillation). ENSO influences climate in distant regions: droughts in South-East Asia, parts of Australia, and parts of Africa, and heavy rainfall and flooding in arid areas of Africa and South America, have been observed during El Nino years, while the Indian summer monsoon sometimes weakens and winters in western Canada and parts of the northern United States of America become milder. Overall, disasters triggered by drought are twice as frequent worldwide during El Nino years.

Forecasting techniques to predict and measure El Nino events have improved dramatically in recent years. According to one of these techniques (the multivariate ENSO index), there were 3 such extreme events during the 1950-1980 period but, since 1984, there have already been 4 major El Ninos. The longest single El Nino period on record occurred from 1990-1995. Whether or not this apparent increase is related to global warming has not yet been established.

An increasing array of studies demonstrate significant associations between the ENSO cycle, climate phenomena and human health. El Nino and similar weather disturbances affect human health mainly through natural disasters and related outbreaks of infectious diseases. It is impossible to estimate, however, how many human deaths and illnesses are directly linked to El Nino, as the health effects result from a complex interaction of abnormal weather events with factors such as population, over-crowding, health status and sanitation infrastructure.

El Nino can cause dramatically increased or decreased rainfall, which can lead directly to natural disasters such as floods or droughts. In addition, high wind events such as tornadoes may increase in frequency or intensity. These effects can occur at great distances from the ENSO phenomenon and tend to be more dramatic in particular areas. These disasters may cause direct injuries and deaths, destroy crops and property, lead to famine and interrupt development. They make already-vulnerable populations more vulnerable. Research has shown that the numbers of people affected by natural disasters worldwide are greater during the first El Nino year and the following year than in the pre-El Nino year.

The 1997 El Nino has already been associated with drought-related forest fires originating in Indonesia, which have, in turn, resulted in a dramatic increase in respiratory disease visits in Kuala Lumpur General Hospital and in the State of Sarawak (both in Malaysia). These fires have mainly been caused by human activity but the lack of seasonal rains has led to their spread over wide areas and the fires are now affecting virgin rain forest. Similar fires are being witnessed in the Amazon rain forest and pose a major ecological threat to both farming and traditional indigenous communities. At present, drought-related famine is threatening countries such as Sudan and the Philippines. In 1997-1998, El Nino has also been associated with very destructive flooding in South America. Ecuador and Peru have been particularly affected.

Strong evidence exists of linkages between these weather variations and increases in the incidence of infectious diseases, such as insect vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, Rift Valley fever) and epidemic diarrhoeal diseases (e.g. cholera and shigellosis).

Climatic factors, such as changes in temperature and humidity, are known to be capable of facilitating or interrupting the capacity of insect vectors to transmit disease to humans. Malaria and Rift Valley fever are 2 diseases for which substantial documentation in this area exists. Less well documented, but of increasing interest, are the effects of ENSO on dengue. This largely urban disease, present in tropical regions around the world, is spread by mosquitoes that breed in artificial containers. Thus, in addition to climatic factors, changes in domestic water storage practices, brought about by disruption of regular supplies, will also influence patterns of transmission.

El Nino events have an impact on malaria control in many parts of the world because the associated weather disturbances influence vector breeding sites, and hence the transmission potential of the disease. It has been recognised that many areas experience a dramatic increase in the incidence of malaria during extreme weather events correlated to El Nino. Moreover, outbreaks may not only be larger, but more severe, as populations affected may not have high levels of immunity. Quantitative leaps in malaria incidence coincident with ENSO events have been recorded around the world; such epidemics have been documented in Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela in South America, in Rwanda in Africa, and in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Asia. Historically, in the Punjab region of north-eastern Pakistan, the risk of malaria epidemics increases five-fold during the year following a major El Nino, and in Sri Lanka, the risk of a malaria epidemic increases four-fold during an El Nino year.

These increased risks are associated with above-average levels of precipitation in the Punjab and below-average levels of precipitation in Sri Lanka. In South America and Rwanda, heavy rainfall has contributed to major epidemics of malaria. To be able to forecast the impact of El Nino in different endemic areas, control programmes need to develop a thorough understanding of how local vector species respond to climate variability, and how a population's immunity and nutritional status fluctuate over time. To organize a timely and effective epidemic response, malaria control programmes need to incorporate surveillance and epidemic control in their everyday activities.

Outbreaks of Rift Valley fever (RVF), a vector-borne disease that principally infects livestock, have occurred in eastern Africa on almost every occasion that there has been excessive rainfall. As a result of the 1997 El Nino, areas of north-eastern Kenya and southern Somalia experienced rainfall which was 60-100 times heavier than normal - the heaviest recorded rainfall since 1961. The rains, which began in October 1997 and continued through January 1998, caused RVF virus-infected eggs of floodwater _Aedes_ sp. mosquitoes to hatch. In the outbreak of RVF that followed, livestock losses were considerable in the affected regions. Moreover, the estimated toll of human death due to RVF in the region was 200-250, while there were an estimated 89,000 human cases of RVF in north-eastern Kenya and southern Somalia. Other areas of Kenya, and the United Republic of Tanzania were also affected with widespread animal infections; however, their impact on the human population was not as great. Preliminary estimates of infections and deaths among animals and humans suggest this may be the largest outbreak of RVF ever reported. These are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in many countries. Outbreaks can be related either to floods or drought (floods, for example, contaminate water supply, while droughts make hygiene more difficult and contaminate the water that remains).

There is circumstantial evidence to indicate a close association between weather changes caused by El Nino and cholera. Since September/October 1997, there has been a deteriorating cholera situation in the Horn of Africa. After heavy rainfall and floods, most of the countries in this region reported a dramatic upsurge in the numbers of cases of and deaths due to cholera. In 1997, a total of 40,249 cholera cases with 2,231 deaths were reported in Tanzania alone (compared with 1,464 cases and 35 deaths in 1996).

Kenya reported 17,200 cases and 555 deaths and Somalia 6,814 cases and 252 deaths due to cholera in 1997. With the floods continuing in this region and adding to already limited sanitation, poor hygiene and unsafe water, conditions favour the spread of cholera. At the end of 1997 other countries bordering the Horn of Africa, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique, were reporting increased numbers of cholera cases and deaths. Reported figures through the first 3 months of 1998 already showed 11 335 cases and 525 deaths in Uganda, and 10 108 cases and 507 deaths in Kenya.

In the Americas, the current cholera epidemic has been raging for 7 years and, associated with a major El Nino, the number of cholera cases started to increase at the end of 1997. In 1998, Peru has been suffering from a major outbreak and has already reported, for the first 3 months of 1998, 16 705 cases and 146 deaths. Other countries which are reporting increasing numbers of cholera cases in 1998 are Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua.

A study examining the relationship between sea surface temperature and cholera case data in Bangladesh during 1994 documented a close association between those 2 variables.

Measures to predict and prevent disease outbreaks related to El Nino are increasing. In south-eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa, the regional WHO Cholera Surveillance Teams, warned by early forecasts of El Nino-related extreme weather events in 1997, were able to help reduce the severity of the cholera outbreak in those regions by means of increased monitoring and heightened preparedness of health care institutions in the area.

The Southern Oscillation Index has been used to predict the probability of epidemics of vector-borne diseases (such as Murray Valley Encephalitis in Australia). Satellite remote sensing, used to detect areas of abnormal precipitation via increases in vegetation, highlighted exactly those areas which were hit by the RVF outbreak in east Africa in late 1997 and early 1998. The use of mathematical modelling techniques to predict the spread of malaria into new areas in relation to climate changes are also being used (e.g. in Kenya).

WHO is a member of the "climate agenda programme", a United Nations inter-agency programme which integrates all major international climate-related activities. Within this mechanism, WHO plays a major role in linking the monitoring of health impacts with the monitoring of climate and other associated impacts, and in assisting Member States to use prediction and forecasting models to reduce the human impact of major climatic events.

In December 1997, WHO, together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UK Medical Research Council, held the first of a series of workshops on climate change and human health. At the workshop, the first steps towards drawing up an international research agenda were taken. WHO's long-term objective is to use improvements in predicting and monitoring unusual weather occurrences such as El Nino as an aid in taking pre-emptive measures to reduce the public health impact of such events."


Hugh Clark of the Honolulu Advertiser reports the Big Island of the Hawaii chain has had 147 brush fires so far this year, half of them arsons as the island struggles with one of he worst droughts in years. In Hilo, only 18.3 inches of rain have fallen this year; the normal is 53.3 inches. Elsewhere on the island, rainfall is still 20 - 25 % of normal.


Source: WHO WER and Epidemiological Bulletin E.Mail subscription service: < "A total of 9,605 cases with 746 deaths (CFR 7.8%) has been reported to WHO since January. Major outbreaks have occurred in the Bunia area (Orientale Province, ex Haut-Zaire province) which is 1,600 km east of Kinshasa and in Bukavu (Sud-Kivu Province) which is close to the Rwandan border. Cholera is also reported from other areas in the country. The WHO country office, as well as major NGO's, are providing support to the health authorities to combat the outbreak." John Woodall <WOODALL@SERVER.BIOQMED.UFRJ.BR VIA ProMED-mail <

20 MAY 1998.NEPAL: EFFECTS: AVALANCHES reports that government officials in Nepal linked ENSO to "pre-monsoon rains" that have led to avalanches, low temperatures, blizzards, and high winds during the mountain climbing season. Two climbers have already died inavalanches.


"Although sea surface temperatures are not currently exceptionally high in relation to normal (and may in fact be returning to normal), ENSO conditions during the previous winter of 1997-98 have apparently resulted in significant effects on the breeding and wintering birds of the Sea of Cortez and off the West Coast of Baja California. In preliminary surveys, Daniel Anderson, James Keith, Eduardo Palacios , and others (University of California, Davis) have found that brown pelican nesting effort in 1998 compared to "normal" was roughly as follows:




1998 NUMBERS (Nests)





Isla San Pedro Martir




San Lorenzo area




Isla Piojo




Puerto Refugio




Isla San Luis




Laguna San Ignacio(on the Pacific side)





This is the most extensive El Nino related nesting failure seen in Baja California brown pelicans since studies began in 1970. Brown and blue-footed boobies were also present on the Midriff islands and northern Gulf of California in large numbers in the Spring of 1998, at a time of the year when they should be concentrated at nesting colonies such as Isla San Pedro Martir and Isla San Jorge (Erik Mellink from CICESE reports little nesting on the colony that normally has thousands of pairs, and there were no nesting boobies on San Pedro Martir in early-May). Storm petrels (least and black) were very scarce in the Midriff in March and April this year when they would normally be by far the most abundant birds seen on pelagic surveys; better numbers were seen to the south near Isla San Pedro Martir, and by May, increasing numbers were seen in offshore pelagic surveys in the Midriff area. Heermann's gulls at Isla Rasa were present in large numbers in late-March, but 4-5 weeks behind in their normal phenology and still widely dispersed, as were elegant and royal terns. By May, HEEG were beginning nesting at almost normal numbers on Isla Rasa (still 4-5 weeks later than normal), but nesting tern numbers (ELTE and ROTE) continued to be depressed. There were Brant's cormorants at two colonies with known histories that began nesting in normal numbers in March and April, but by May these two colonies were abandoned; and double-crested cormorants were abandoning nests at the same time (one small colony at Isla Gemelos east started with about 35 nests that were down to about 5 nests in May, and a small 30-50 nest colony at Isla San Luis was completely abandoned by May). Yellow-footed gulls were more dispersed and pelagic than normally found at this time of year, as well, and few nesting attempts were seen (one brood of newly hatched young on Isla Smith was the only seen in 1998).

Osprey, the most resident of the breeding "seabirds" in the study area, have during past El Nino events shown reduced but still somewhat successful breeding efforts. These birds feed largely on resident, local species of fish. In 1998, about two-thirds to one-half of the original nesting attempts in the Bahia de los Angeles area were abandoned by May, the lowest yet recorded in long-term studies since 1971. Yet, the osprey was the most successful of the nesting birds of the offshore islands in the Sea of Cortez, even in this exceptionally strong El Nino year of 1998, producing roughly 0.3 fledglings per original nest attempt.

So far, there has been little or no widespread high mortality detected in breeding species such as brown pelicans but some adult blue-footed boobies were showing up in beach walks in some local areas (we are still trying to locate areas of increased mortality for pelicans in Baja California and found one area from roughly Bahia Magdalena north to Laguna San Ignacio where higher numbers of carcasses were found; and an unusually high proportion of those carcasses were adult-plumaged birds. The state of the carcasses indicated that this mortality had occurred during the winter of 1998 in January and February-and at the same time we received reports of an active dieoff in those areas from cooperators who responded to our earlier e-mail requests for information). But wintering species such as eared grebes, pacific loons, and common loons were known to be dying at higher than normal rates over a larger area, and they were emaciated and showed delayed basic to alternate plumage development.

Preliminary results so far are just as predicted for this exceptionally strong El Nino. Long-term studies of seabird populations in the Gulf of California by D. W. Anderson have now continuously covered four major and three less-intense ENSO events. "-- Dan Anderson <


"In contrast to the seabirds, however, heavy winter and spring rains (associated with the rains being reported for California) have apparently resulted in some of the finest and lushest desert vegetation seen for years. This will apparently be a rich year for terrestrial birds such as Harris hawks, red-tailed hawks, California quail, northern mockingbirds, various flycatchers and other species (the ranchers in Baja California are not complaining either). Data on most terrestrial species are anecdotal other than HAHA, RTHA, CORA, AMKE, and LOSH, which have been censused through roadside surveys in northern Baja California through the same series of ENSOs. We predict conditions to return to "normal" (average) in the next year or two. It should be noted that all results reported here are so far preliminary, and monitoring will continue through July 1998.""-- Dan Anderson <


"Franklin Gress, who is covering southern California brown pelicans, reports about 700 BRPE nests at Santa Barbara Island (SBI), with 3-week-old young in late-March. Normal numbers of nesting pairs at SBI should be about 700-1,000. At Anacapa Island, about 4,000-5,000 pairs of BRPE is "normal", but BRPE were about 2-3 weeks late this year, with about 1,500 active nests (but still building) by the end of March. There were no chicks yet at Anacapa in late-March. Southern California Bight (SCB) BRPE therefore look somewhat better than those in the Gulf of California and farther south along Baja's west coast; but still, overall, they are late in phenology and lower in expected nesting effort so far than in previous years. Brant's cormorants in the SCB had not yet begun to nest in Gress's study areas. Double-crested cormorants are normally later nesters (April). Gress's monitoring will continue through July."-- Dan Anderson <


CNN reports heavy snow pack and late snowfall in the California mountains. Volcanic National Park had 750 inches of snow since January. Temperatures in Yosemite are in the 40's (F), down from the 80's last year at the same time.

30 November 1997: Pacific:
Tropical Cyclone activity in the eastern pacific basin was near normal during 1997. There were 17 named tropical storms of which nine became hurricanes. The long-term averages are 15.6 named tropical storms of which 8.7 become hurricanes. Seven of this year's hurricanes attained one-minute wind speeds of 100 knots or greater and hurricane Linda reached an unprecedented 160 knots. These strong hurricanes appear to be related to the unusually warm sea-surface temperatures that occurred in the Eastern pacific this year which in turn may be related to the strong El nino event that has been so widely discussed. There have been other seasons with as many or more strong hurricanes. The years 1983 and 1985 both had eight hurricanes with 100 knots or more.

                                            MAX      MIN     DIRECT
NAME       CLASS            DATES           WIND     PRESS   DEATHS
                                           (KNOTS)   (MB)
---------  --------------   -----           -------  -----   ------
ANDRES     TROPICAL STORM   JUN 1-7           45       998
BLANCA     TROPICAL STORM   JUN 9-12          40      1002
CARLOS     TROPICAL STORM   JUN 25-28         45       996
DOLORES    HURRICANE        JUL 5-12          80       975
ENRIQUE    HURRICANE        JUL 12-16        100       960
FELICIA    HURRICANE        JUL 14-22        115       948
GUILLERMO  HURRICANE        JUL 30-AUG 15    140       919
HILDA      TROPICAL STORM   AUG 9-15          45      1000
IGNACIO    TROPICAL STORM   AUG 17-19         35      1005
JIMENA     HURRICANE        AUG 25-30        115       942
KEVIN      TROPICAL STORM   SEP 3-7           50       994
LINDA      HURRICANE        SEP 9-17         160       902
MARTY      TROPICAL STORM   SEP 12-16         40      1002
NORA       HURRICANE        SEP 16-26        115       950        2
OLAF       TROPICAL STORM   SEP 26-OCT 12     60       989
PAULINE    HURRICANE        OCT 5-10         115       948      230
RICK       HURRICANE        NOV 7-10          75       980

CNN reports that millions of grasshoppers invaded Laughlin, Nevada and Lake Havasu, Arizona, leaving streets 'slick' with crunched bodies.

Turtox News reports that changes in currents during ENSO conditions may allow some species to cross the Eastern Pacific Barrier , a 5,400-kilometre barrier of deep water between the central and the eastern Pacific which restricts movement of shallow-water marine species. The Barrier has been in place since the Cenozoic, 65 million years ago, and has no island stepping stones. Lessios and colleagues found genetic evidence suggesting that sea urchins have exchanged genetic material across the barrier. They speculate that ENSO conditions may facilitate this exchange.--VIA Neal Smith <

The Africa News Service reports that the World Bank approved a US$27.6 million loan to Uganda to repair roads damaged by ENSO. Over 350 km of road and 120 bridges are involved. Floods in the east and drought in the country's west devastated its agriculture.-- <

The Los Angeles Times reports that, as all the vegetation that sprung up during ENSO-related rains dries out, it will set the stage for major fires in the dry season. Homeowners can obtain copies of a free brochure on how to protect their homes against brush fires by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to "Brushfire" c/o WIIS, 3530 Wilshire Blvd. No. 1610, Los Angeles, Calif 90010.

Xinhua reports that ENSO-related conditions are expected to continue until August, although flooding caused by recent rains is expected to recede. Argentine meteorologists suggest that La Nina may now generate low temperatures and heavy snowfalls.

15 MAY 1998. ASIA: FIRE
Xinhua reports that the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program Klaus Toefer believes that the start of the Southeast Asian dry season may see a flare-up in fires. Many fires have never been extinguished and the past rainy season was a weak one. The UN called for fire-fighter training but funds are inadequate at present.

Frauke Jensen of Reuters reports Namibia is experiencing extensive crop failure and 25,000 people need food because of the ENSO-related drought. Caprivi and especially Kavango are worst hit. Namibia's grain production is estimated to be 53,200 metric tonnes, down from 166,400 mt last year, for a population of 1.6 million. For the entire Southern African regional, food relief for five million people may be needed.

Lake Victoria is now only two feet below its record height as measured over the last 100 year, thanks to heavy rains from ENSO. (Steve Newman in Earthweek, Honolulu Advertiser 24 May 1998.)

Winter 1997/98, Spring 1998: "The winter of 1997/98 was unusually mild and somewhat dry with lower-than-average snowfall. The spring of 1998 has been warmer than usual and has been dry. During the winter at this latitude, life can be pretty tough. The temperature often drops to -40 C. for many days at a time. Transportation and heating fuel usage is very high during such times. This winter we were spared the usual number of such occurrences. Life during the past winter was more tolerable and even pleasant. Transportation and heating fuel use was definitely lower than usual. During the spring of 1998 life has been considerably more appealing than usual. The leaves came out on the trees approximately 3 weeks earlier than usual. It sure has been nice to see the green leaves for an extra three weeks of one's life! Who knows if we could ever attribute our recent pleasant climate experiences to El Nino (or ENSO, as you employ the term), but we have been enjoying it."-- --Paul Sutherland <

The Honolulu Advertiser reports that the first shipment of food supplies have arrived at twenty atolls and islands affected by the ENSO related drought.

The Honolulu Advertiser reports that rain fell in many parts of the Philippines last week, apparently the start of the monsoon season, marking the end of the ENSO-linked drought.

The Honolulu Advertiser, citing 'news sources' said that 40% of Mexico City's cars were ordered to stay home and factory production was cut back, as smog and smoke from regional fires triggered major air quality problems.

"I am a conservation biologist who has been living and working in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico for the last two years at the Instituto de Ecologia. We have a conservation project currently in progress along the Gulf Coast of Veracruz. This isn't a technical report, but rather a personal anecdote of sorts. The drought here in Veracruz (and elswhere in Mexico) is pretty severe. For example, entire lagoon systems at our project site have completely dried up. Fires and smoke up in the mountains of El Cofre de Perote, on the inland road to Mexico City, are periodically visible here in Xalapa. The haze that has long been hanging down around the coast has now moved up and into the temperate "rain" forests here around Xalapa. These hazes (called "bruma") are now regularly causing the closure of the international airport at the port of Veracruz."--Dan Bennack

The Environmental News Network reported that weekend rains extinguished at least some of the most recent fires that resulted from the months of ENSO-related drought.

"Ela and me are just back from the Galapagos: ENSO ceases there, the first cold water arrived. Garua, the foggy mist, has set in." --Martin Wikelski VIA

26 MAY 1998. U.S.A.: PESTS
Anita Manning, USA Today, reports that ENSO-linked climate conditions are spawning bumper crops of arthropod pests, especially ants, but including other pests such as Africanized bees spreading north to Nevada, grasshoppers in California and Arizona, mosquitoes in the east and slugs in Golden Gate Bridge, California. This is expected to be a very bad year for Lyme Disease, because ticks overwintered well in the warm conditions, and their host species are now abundant. Gardeners are having to contend with early and abundant pest species, Not all of this can or should be blamed on EN directly, much of it is driven by rain amount and timing.

27 - 30 MAY 1998. CHINA: FLOODS
The Environmental News Network and Itar-Tass report at least 128 dead and almost $100 million in damages as ENSO-related floods hit eight Chinese provinces. Over one million homes have been destroyed and crops were destroyed on 200,000 hectares. Further heavy rains and floods are expected in the Yangtze river valley.

The Environmental News Network reports a fire of 1,500 acres on the Apalachicola National Forest as state officials continue to be concerned about prospects of fire throughout the state.

The Associated Press reports sea lions are beaching themselves and dying after suffering seizures. Symptoms include diarrhea, gran mal, and vomiting. Most are pregnant females. Many sit "straight up with their heads back", with foaming at the mouth and "whole body twitching". "Similar episodes" have occurred every "three to five years, most recently in 1992".

WHO Outbreak news: "Since January 1998, 13,440 cholera cases and 778 deaths have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The provinces of Katanga, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu and Orientale are currently the most affected by cholera outbreaks. The provinces of Kinsasha and Equateur have reported only a few cases. Although the outbreak is in regression in the province of Katanga, the situation in Sud- Kivu, Nord-Kivu and Orientale provinces is still of serious concern. Many activities to prevent further spread and to treat affected populations are being undertaken by the MOH in collaboration with WHO, UNICEF, MSF and other NGO's. From 1 April to 18 May, 77 cases of cholera and 3 deaths have been reported in Bujumbura Province, Burundi. The districts of Buyenzi, Bwiza, Cibitoke and Musaga are the most affected. Health education and activities to improve sanitation are being carried out by the MOH. Cases of cholera started to be reported in Rwanda in March in Cyangugu prefecture, which is on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the number of cases is not very high at present, there is major concern about further spread to other areas of the country. In Uganda, the dramatic cholera outbreak, which started in late 1997, is still affecting the country with over 20,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths reported since the beginning of the year. The current cholera outbreak affecting the Great Lakes region confirms earlier forecasts of a potential spread from [the] eastern African countries affected by major outbreaks last year to countries in the central and southern part of Africa."-- Dr. James Chin, CDPC-mail VIA ProMED-mail post

Tom Bell of the Anchorage Daily News reports that May in Anchorage was one of the cloudiest and windiest ever recorded and the summer threatens to be cool and overcast, at least until ENSO stops. Cold weather has delayed the emergence of spruce bark beetles which have become a major problem with spruce trees in the area. Elsewhere, despite record rains in Kodiak and Whittier, the interior of Alaska is the driest it has been ina decade.

The Environmental News Network reports that the unusually mild conditions of the past winter appears to be producing a bumper crop of black-legged ticks Ixodes scapularis, the vector for Lyme Disease, according to Robert Pinger, professor of physiology and health science at Ball State University. - Robert Pinger <

The Environmental News Network reports a significant decrease in Galapagos Penguins, linked to warm water conditions caused by ENSO. Professor Dee Boersma of the University of Washington reports the population has fallen 50% since 1970 (range 4,250 to 8,500) . During her recent visit, she saw no juveniles penguins, suggesting either penguins did not breed or that no young survived. Boersma said: "the water's too warm and there's not enough food.". Boersma is concerned that an increased frequency of ENSO events may increase mortality and restrict reproduction, while a decrease in cold-water La Nina events, when penguins breed well, may not give the population enough time to recover between ENSO events.

"[We have received the following dengue update from Tonga -- Many thanks to Dr Ian Welch and Tonga Ministry of Health -- TK] Ministry of Health in Tonga has advised latest figures on dengue in Tonga as of 29 May 1998. Since February 1998 there has been a total of 438 clinically suspected cases of dengue presented at Vaiola Hospital on Tongatapu. Of the 438 clinical cases, a total of 220 cases have had serology tests and 70 of these have confirmed evidence of dengue. Dengue type 2 has been identified. There has been one death of a child of 6 years with confirmed dengue. The child had been admitted to hospital 'in extremis'. At this time, there is little evidence of dengue in outer islands. There is now a significant reduction in the number of clinical cases of dengue type illness presenting at Vaiola Hospital on Tongatapu."--Ian Welch --Tom Kiedrzynski <

"It appears that weather conditions in Bangladesh may be exacerbating the incidence of disease. Having spent the last few days researching the local news in various parts of the country, there seems to be a recurring theme with officialdom pointing to the weather as a source of increase in the risk factor for diseases of various infectious diseases. There have also been references to standing water increasing the number of arthropod vectors of disease. As yet, I have not been able to determine if anything is being done to increase the surveillance for these diseases, based on the local news accounts. (SECTION DELETED) Another report adds from Kurigram: Diarrhoea induced by persisting heatwave has claimed three lives and attacked some 10 thousand people in the district in last two weeks, official sources said. (SECTION DELETED) The heatwave, now sweeping across the country, caused various diseases, like fever, diarrhoea and other stomach disorders, civil surgeon office sources here said. Children are among the worst-affected groups. Besides, the hot and humid weather is hampering classes in schools as well [as] barring people from coming out of their homes. (SECTION DELETED) Source: The Independent, a Bangladesh Newspaper. BARISAL, May 18: A total of 24 people were died (sic) and at least 5,000 others were attacked with diarrhoea in different districts of Barisal division in the last one month. [Barisal is in the middle of the Ganges delta - Mod.JW] According to an official source, of the total deaths 10 were reported from Patuakhali, six from Barguna, six from Jhalakathi and two from Barisal. Of the victims, 14 died during the last one week. But unofficial sources said the death figure would bemuch higher than the official one." --Michael Peat VIA ProMED-mail post

The Associated Press reports that the Koyukuk and Chandalar have flooded as a cool early May gave way to warm weather that triggered snow melt, abetted by heavy rains.

Source: newspaper El Comercio online "An average of 10 new cases of cholera are registered every day in the port city of Guayaquil. Cases are appearing in all sections of the city. An outbreak is also seen in the city of Manta." --Abramo Ottolenghi < The full text of the report in Spanish can be retrieved from the archives by sending the following message to -get promed-port vl98.n053".

The difference between 1983 and 1998 in Panama: "An entirely different subset of El Nino birds. Chief among them are Larus modestus, this AM 145 ind., many still in breeding plumage,Sterna elegans. Sterna lorata, Larus maculipennis, Larus cirrhocephalus, and a very very large number of Larus pipixan. No cormorants from the south, no boobies, no Inca terns. Going out tomorrow to docuemnt the ones that are not on the AOU list. I was blown away by the Grey Gulls and the Franklins. The latter were eating mosquito larvae on a big pond much like phalaropes." --Neal Smith

"From our research study site at Point Piedras Blancas, San Luis Obispo Co., California, the annual spring northbound (Baja-Alaska) migration of the Gray Whale (_Eschrichtius robustus_) was observed for our 5th consecutive season to assess the winter season's calf production. Only the second phase (cow/calf migration) was observed between mid-March through May 22. Impregnated, adult males, and juveniles constitute the first phase and usually pass slightly further offshore from February to mid-March and not the subject of interest in this assessment. The gray whale cow/calf migration began 10-14 days earlier than previous observed seasons (1994-97) and has finished 10-14 days early as well. Calf production during the 1997-98 Baja calving season appears to be about equal to the record high observed (and thus calculated) in 1997 which means that population has probably plateaued at or near maximum carrying capacity. Estimated total population of the eastern North Pacific stock is about 22,500 and is believed recovered to historical pre-whaling levels. Reasons for the unseasonably early calf migration is uncertain and can never be proven but perhaps can be at least partially attributed to the 'El Nino' warmed waters which were reported running 4-5C above normal in the Baja coastal waters in February and March thus perhaps prodding the whales to leave the calving grounds a bit early. . ."--Richard Rowlett

"Ancillary migrant coastal seabird studies and observations concurrent with the spring gray whale cow/calf migration from Point Piedras Blancas, San Luis Obispo Co., California, mid-March thru 22 May suggest little if any 'El Nino' impacts on most seabird species since comparative observations and studies at this site commenced in 1994. Weather continued unseasonably wet through the season. The normally prevailing 20-25kt NNW longshore afternoon winds were infrequent and often replaced with several days of atypical southerlies. Many days were essentially calm (winds light & variable <15kts) which resulted in the usual nearshore upwelling which is usually visible at the surface seldom being strong and discernible at all. Only by mid-May did conditions begin to settle into the more normal springtime pattern. Coastal sea surface temperatures were generally running 1-2 C above the average. Some of this can be attributed to lack of the usual wind born mixing of colder nearshore sub- surface waters rather than just plain 'warmer' waters overall. In general, total estimated numbers of loons (all species) was equally comparable to previous seasons, at least since 1994. Likewise, Brant, scoters, phalaropes, Bonaparte's and Sabine's Gulls, and Forster's Terns appeared to be present in relatively 'normal' numbers and densities. However, tubenose and 'resident' alcid species of seabirds were present in a fraction of their usual numbers but picked up to near expected rates by mid-May, so it may have just been a late start or the earlier birds were further offshore beyond detectable range. Some Alaskan seabird species were exceptionally numerous and irruptive this winter/spring, most notably Black-legged Kittiwakes and to a lesser degree, Ancient Murrelets. On some days in March and April, up to 600 northbound Black-legged Kittiwakes were seen. Straggler kittiwakes and Ancient Murrelets continued to be seen well into mid to late May. The Pacific Loon migration got off to a slow start but peaked with record flights observed (counted) on April 26 and 27 (~60,000 each day), then tapered off abruptly thereafter to 5 - 10,000 per day (early May) to 2 - 5,000 per day (mid-May). Best estimate for the period 20 March thru 22 May for Pacific Loons was 465,000. Several days during the 'peak' were lost in fog and rain. The persistent and sometimes strong southerlies on some days dispersed the usual tight near-shorebound packs and threads allowing for more loons to pass doubtlessly undercounted. Despite all this, I believe 500 - 600,000 Pacific Loons probably passed the 'point', a figure which is thought to be 'normal' at this site each Spring based on observations annually here since 1994. So, in a nutshell; no apparent or significant negative 'El Nino' related impact on loon, brant, and scoters at least from this site. Sorry to be the bearer of such good news... this mailing list I note tends to lean heavily toward El Nino's negative impacts and effects (the 4-D's -- death, disaster, destruction, disease) more than neutral or positive :-). Neutral (positive) data is just as important as negative, but just not as much fun to collect (report) ....or something like that as the saying goes :-) Perhaps the 'El Nino' warmed waters and storm tracks were responsible for a few otherwise unusual warm water and tropical seabird sightings. A Red-billed Tropicbird was seen over the 'Point' on March 24. There were at least two Brown Boobies, an adult on April 05 and an immature on April 26. The latter may have been the same individual which was seen sporadically since December at several locations along the San Luis Obispo County coast. Three northbound Black Skimmers were seen on May 21. On the other hand, Baja-dispersing Heermann's Gulls seem to be present in much lower numbers than those observed in 1996 and 1997 when they were then observed northbound by the scores by mid-May. By contrast and by the end of the period (May 22), the rate of dispersal continued at a trickle of occasional one's and two's. Post breeding summertime northbound dispersal of Brown Pelicans passing the site was a little slow and late in getting started but by early to mid-May, the numbers were running strong and in the 500 to 1,000+ range per day on some days."--Richard Rowlett

Reuters reports ten dead in a helicopter crash as Mexican authorities continue to fight fires caused by ENSO-related drought conditions. Sixty people have died in 12,600 fires that have burned 950,000 acres this year. At least 168 fires are still active, having burned 42,890 acres.

The Environmental News Network reports that unseasonably late rains and cold have ruined almost 100% of the Central Valley cotton crop and half the state bing cherry crop.

Steven Martin of Si Sa Ket, Agence France Presse reports in the Bangkok Post that drought and the economic crisis are devastating Northeastern Thai rice farmers. The ENSO-lined drought, the worst in four decades, is removing the agricultural safety net needed as the unemployed begin to return to their villages from the cities. Agricultural officials are encouraging farmers to switch to crops requiring less water. Over 70% of the farmers depend on rains. Sixty percent of the crop has been damaged by the drought. Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter.-- VIA Jamil Kazmi VIA <

"We had a second clinical case which has also been serologically confirmed. In conducting a household survey there are three family members (husband, mother-in-law, and 1 daughter) all with anti-dengue IgG. Their IgM was also elevated but not to the reference threshold of the laboratory. Three other children in the household all had high anti-dengue IgM and IgG. The husband, mother-in-law, and the daughter all returned from a trip to the State of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia on February 11, 1998. The index case and the other three children had not traveled off-island. They represent local transmission. Only one of the children had been clinically ill, with vomiting and hematemesis."--Jon B. Bruss VIA Dr. Tom Kiedrzynski VIA ProMED

The Environmental News Network reports that NASA observed a weakening of tradewinds in the eastern Pacific before the onset of the latest ENSO event according to Dr. W. Timothy Liu at NASA's Jet Propulsion (Scientists have long believed this occur, but have not observed it. The main question remains "what causes the tradewinds to weaken?"-ED.). The NSCAT project also observed an unusual low-pressure area with counterclockwise circulation that moved toward the U.S. mainland, dragging with it tropical moisture that hit the California coast as rain, but bypassed Hawaii, producing drought.

Dominic Hamilton of the Environmental News Service reports that over 1,700 hundred Guatemalan firefighters have brought 110 fires under control in the Peten area, but that until rains arrive at the end of June, the situation could flare up again. At least 580 square miles were nurned, including areas in several major parks, but sparing Tikal. Slash and burn farming apparently triggered many of the fires.---Environment News Service <

The New York Times reports that the onset of the rainy season has yet to put a damper on fires burning in Mexico and Central America. Over 150 fires, 23 major, continue to burn. The U.S, has provided $5 million and helicopters to assist the 3,000 Mexicans battling the fires.

A heat wave that has killed more than 1,300 people in the last three weeks is easing,with the onset of the monsoons (Steve Newman in Earthweek, Honolulu Advertiser 7 June 1998.)

Press Release N&deg;011/98 from the Multisectorial Committee in charge of the study of El Nino 1. The Intertropical Convergence Zone is located between 2 and 5 degrees S and its behavior is similar to that before the onset of ENSO, however rains continue to fall along the Peruvian north coast because of the presence of warm water offshore. 2. Rains should diminish in the mountains and Amazonian lowlands. 3. In May, while temperatures have remained high, they have begun to diminish. 4. Tumbes, Talara, Piura and Chiclayo had rainfalls of 180, 3.0, 6.1 and 0.9 mm respectively. 5. Seasurface temperatures have decreased to normal south of Pisco. 6. Conditions should return to normal along the coast in July.-translated from a report provided by Miguel Rabi <

Reuters reports a seven-mile long invasion of "grasshoppers arrived at the nation's capital, placing local agriculture at risk in the largest outbreak in 50 years. Aerial spraying is planned.

While El Nino is dying, it still managed to generate record world temperatures, 1.76 degrees above the average of 61.7 degrees (1961 to 1990). Vice President Gore stated: "it appears that this general warming trend is making the effects of El Niño worse. This is a reminder once again that global warming is real and that unless we act we can expect more extreme weather in the years ahead."

Southam News: "Environment Canada says this year's spring, marked both by early blossoms and persistent forest fires, was the warmest over officially recorded in this country. The average temperature in Canada over the past three months was more than 3.1 'C above normal, making it the warmest spring the country has experienced since 1948 when a network of weather stations was established to record temperatures nationwide. The first five months of the year were the warmest ever recorded in Canada, with temperatures averaging 3'C above normal. The second warmest five months on record occurred in 1987 when temperatures between January and May were 2.4'C above normal. (SECTION DELETED) In Canada, the warm spring has been marked by reduced rainfall (4.7 percent less precipitation than normal) and an increased number of forest fires. Northern Alberta and northern Ontario have been particularly hard hit."-- Scott Nudds af329@JAMES.HWCN.ORG VIA owner-ecolog-l@UMDD.UMD.EDU

The National Center for Atmospheric Research will host the first summit on "La Niña" or "El Viejo", El Nino's inverse, on July 15-17 Past Nina's were blamed for the 1988 Midwest drought, stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic, and much colder upwelling conditions off Peru. There have been three Ninas versus seven Ninos in the past 20 years (The Pacific Ocean actually spends little time being average, instead it tends to switch over the years between El Nino warm conditions and La Nina cool conditions. Interest now centers on what the cool phase has in store for the world.-Ed.).

Melvin Flores in Amandala (Local newspaper in Belize) URL: "Dr. Luis Alberto Maroquin Veliz, head of the Melchor Hospital, told AMANDALA this afternoon that a cholera outbreak in Melchor is suspected of having caused the death of one person, and that there are 5 confirmed cases of cholera in the hospital. The outbreak was initially diagnosed on May 4, 1998, said Dr. Veliz, and since then, the hospital had been treating an average of 2-3 patients daily, which had increased to 11, then fluctuated between 2-5 cases daily. Sixty persons with symptoms of cholera have already been treated in the hospital, and 360 persons have already been treated at the out-clinics. San Ignacio's Public Health Department has reported two confirmed cases of cholera, one in Benque Viejo del Carmen, and the other in Las Flores. Fifteen family members have been treated for the disease. The district has launched plans to counter any outbreak of cholera, setting up testing units in Benque Viejo, San Ignacio and Belmopan. A mobile unit has also been equipped to deal with outbreaks in the outlying villages. The last outbreak of cholera in Belize was in July-August, 1995, when four persons died. The Mopan, Macal and the Belize Old Rivers have been tested for the disease, and authorities are awaiting the results of the tests. Meanwhile, medical authorities in Melchor are testing the streams which feed the Mopan, and they have suspended the activities of street vendors in Melchor until the vendors can prove that they have complied with certain guidelines laid down for the preparation of food. In Melchor, the cholera bacterium has so far been found in cabbages used by both vendors and citizens of that municipality. Belize health authorities on Sunday, June 7, administered aid to a resident living in the Guatemalan side of Arenal, a village that straddles the Belize/Guatemalan border." --via Peter Singfield VIA ProMED <

"Record-breaking global temperatures were found in each of the first five months of 1998. During those months, the average global surface temperature was 1.76 degrees above an average of 61.7 degrees for the benchmark period of 1961 to 1990. "One consensus that is emerging is that this El Nino is in its dying stages. Unlike the last El Nino event that lingered on from mid-1990 to mid-1995, El Nino 1997-1998 is showing clear signs of weakening with all indices diminishing. [3] There is considerable uncertainty, however, about the rate of weakening. One model has conditions moving rapidly towards normal by mid-1998, and another has El Nino lingering on towards the end of the year. "A more pronounced harbinger of change to come is in the sea level. From a peak of 33 cm above normal, [6] the sea level off the coast of South America has lowered 15 cm, as the ocean is beginning to rise again in the western Pacific. Cooler, nutrient-rich water from the thermocline is starting to well up offshore. A mass of cool water some 55 m below the sea surface, measured along the equator by the TAO buoy array, [7] is moving towards South America's coast. Sea-surface temperatures have returned to normal along coastal Peru south of 14xS. Anchovy and sardine catches have returned to normal in that region." [8]"-- VIA Bruce Wright <

Environmental News Network reports a 5.2% decrease in southern sea otters, the third year in a row this has occurred. Pups are down 48.7% since 1997, the largest drop since 1982 (1983 was the last major ENSO event.--Ed.). The cause of the pup decline is unknown.

CNN reported 16 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, killing one. The rainy season is just beginning.

"El Nino 1997-98 has affected considerably Humboldt penguins in Peru. Since March 1998, the population of penguins at Punta San Juan has not recovered after the total breeding failure in the second half of 1997. Between April - June 1998 only 20 - 40 birds have been found on beaches within Punta San Juan. In April 1997 this headland held approximately 1800 breeding pairs. First breeding season of 1998 (April-July) was skipped and probably they will not reproduce in the next season neither (August - December). Sea surface temperature are getting colder and the presence of anchovy shoals have been reported in the southern coast of Peru. Population of guanay cormorants, Peruvian pelicans, Inca terns and Peruvian boobies within Punta San Punta from October 97 onwards have been much lower than in other years. Guanayes, inca terns, Band-tailed gulls and boobies failed to breed in October-November 97, whereas pelicans did not attempt to breed. Also, large flocks of Franklin's gull with breeding plumage have been seen in the southern coast of Peru, Punta San Juan and Lima in May 98. They were probably beginning a delayed migration to their breeding sites in North America."-- "Carlos B. Zavalaga" <



31 MAY 1998. AMAZON: DISEASE (YELLOW FEVER) "Recently, several cases of yellow fever have been reported in Amazonian Brazil, and one in French Guiana. Now, ProMED-mail has heard of suspected cases in Suriname, the country bordered by French Guiana and Guyana. If yellow fever is indeed spreading, we may expect to see cases in Guyana also, and in neighboring areas of Venezuela, from which infected mosquitoes could carry it to Trinidad, as it has in the past, and threaten the Caribbean, where the urban yellow fever mosquito, _Aedes aegypti_, is widespread. So far the cases are reported from jungle areas in the interior, with no urban cases. But medical authorities in the towns of Guyana, French Guiana & Suriname should be looking for cases of clinical hepatitis with an eye to the possibility that they might in fact be yellow fever; medical laboratories in the capitals should make sure they can diagnose the disease rapidly; and health authorities should seriously consider the need to vaccinate in the towns and capitals."-- Jack Woodall VIA ProMED


12 JUNE 1998. UGANDA: DISEASE (CHOLERA) New Vision reports: A new outbreak of cholera in Uganda over the past 10 days has resulted in 33 deaths out of 460 cases. The districts most affected are Aura in the north, Kabarole in the west. There have been eight recorded cases in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, but no deaths reported. Including earlier outbreaks, there have been 1,550 deaths out of 37,896 cases since Nov 1997."-- Dorothy Preslar ON ProMED <>


14 - 16 JUNE 1998. HAWAII: SHOREBIRD GOLDEN PLOVERS: "This year seems to have more mid-June plovers than I recall seeing in years past, particularly the large group I saw yesterday. Possibly some El Nino effect resulting in early failed nests in Alaska might produce larger numbers here in Hawaii. Just a thought. We'll have to see if numbers continue to appear."-- Tom Snetsinger on Hawaiian Bird Hotline. AND-- If there are unusual numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers (and possibly other shorebird species) in Hawaii this summer, I think there are two possible climate-related explanations. 1. The winter weather in Hawaii did not allow the shorebirds to fatten up properly and many were not in good enough condition for the flight to Alaska. 2. The spring weather in Alaska was bad, resulting in failed nesting and an early return of breeding birds from the north. I think the first explanation is most likely. There was a severe drought in Hawaii this winter, probably related to El Nino. The drought may have reduced the populations of small terrestrial arthropods that the shorebirds eat. I wouldn't be surprised if many wintering shorebirds starved. Rainfall began to return to normal this spring. Perhaps some birds were able to fatten up and leave later than usual. As far as I know, the spring weather on the nesting grounds in Alaska and Siberia has not been unusual. Climatological maps show near normal temperatures and precipitation along the arctic coasts of Siberia and Alaska and warmer than normal conditions in interior Alaska. I don't know of any weather conditions on the nesting grounds that might have adversely affected nesting success. I am a meteorologist, so I follow El Nino at work, but anyone interested in El Nino can find lots of information on the internet. The Honolulu Weather Service Forecast Office homepage has several links to El Nino sites. The URL is The University of Hawaii Meteorology homepage also has links to lots of El Nino information. Their URL is"--Pete Donaldson AND- "There seems to be no question that this last winter and spring has affected the seasonal and spatial distribution of Pacific wintering shorebirds. On my last week's trip through the islands I saw many more shorebirds than normal. The two species that struck me as being seasonally numerous were Ruddy Turnstone (40% breeding plumage) and Wandering Tattler (all breeding plumage). I saw only a handful of Plovers (most in non-breeding plumage). The weather in Alaska has been much warmer than normal, so conditions there do not seem to be limiting. As for poor winter conditions, it would be hard to correlate food as a limiting factor. Perhaps it has been the shift of the Pacific High Southward as a result of El Nino and Southern Oscillation patterns, that has created unfavorable wind conditions for migration. All these are speculative issues. It would be interesting to look into the bird observation database to see if these oversummer records can be correlated to El Nino events. In addition. there has been an incredible phenomenom that may be related, that has occurred on the West Coast as at least 6 Bristle-thighed Curlews have shown up on the coast from Northern California through Washington. This spring movement is a first, as the curlews were state records for CA, OR, and WA! Could this be related?"-- Andy Engilis <>


15 JUNE 1998. MEXICO: FIRE Island Press reports: "After going through the hottest and driest spring in the last 90 years, Mexico is suffering an unprecedented spate of forest fires. An estimated 11,000 fires have destroyed upwards of 750,000 acres. Smoke from these fires has drifted north, prompting health alerts as far north as Kansas. In Mexico City, Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas has ordered environmental emergency measures. Citizens have been urged to stay indoors as much as possible and to sleep with their windows shut to prevent contaminants from entering homes. According to the Associated Press, the only reliable statistics available in Mexico City on the effects of the increases in airborne particulates and ozone are the number of medical consultations at public hospitals: "Between May 22 and May 26, the (Mexican) National System of Disease Monitoring .. . detected an increase of 26.9 percent in the demand for consultations as a result of problems associated with air pollution.'' Aside from the effects that the smoke is having on human health in Mexico and Texas, the fires are also destroying large portions of Mexico's "Cloud Forests". An estimated area of 170,000 acres of the Lacandon Forest, Las Chimalapas, and El Ocote have been destroyed by fire. These areas represent the world's most northerly tropical rainforest and are located in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca where a large proportion of the population are dependent on the land for their subsistence. Criticism has been leveled at the Mexican government for failing to prepare for this predicable situation. Homero Aridjis, a Mexico City reporter, stated that "if the fires have broken all previous records this year, we also have to say that the incompetence of government officials has broken all previous records. While we're here choking on smoke and the rain forests are burning down, they're just waiting for Godot, waiting for the rains to come. Despite this heated internal criticism many in the international community have sympathized with the Mexican government, pointing to the severity of the drought and the difficulties experienced in trying to prevent the use of fire for land clearing in a region where this is traditional. One of the few positive aspects of this situation is the cooperation of the Mexican and US governments in fighting fires. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has sent enough shovels, protective gear and chain saws to equip 3,000 firefighters as part of a $5 million aid package. Along with this material aid the US has sent more than 50 fire fighting specialists to coordinate the efforts of the 200,000 Mexican soldiers fighting the fires; air crane helicopters to drop water on the fires; and infra-red navigation equipment to assist in navigation through dense smoke."-- Island press, Eco-Compass


16 JUNE 1998. SRI LANKA: DISEASE (CHOLERA) "Sri Lanka's health authorities Monday warned of an outbreak of a cholera epidemic in the capital city Colombo, health sector sources said Tuesday. More than 300 cholera cases had been reported from all parts of the island country from January 1 to June 10 this year. Already seven positive cases of cholera have been discovered within the city and they are being treated in the Infectious Diseases Hospital, the sources said." --Clyde Markon VIA PROMED


17 JUNE 1998. TEXAS: DROUGHT Steven H. Lee of The Dallas Morning News reported that Texas A&M University economists predicted that the ongoing Texan drought could cost up to $517 directly, with overall losses of $1.7 billion. Rainfall is at 17% of normal levels for March - May.


17 JUNE 1998. NEW ZEALAND: EFFECTS (INSECTS) ENN reported that Jim Salinger, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, reported the highest summer temperatures in 60 years and the second warmest since records began 145 years ago, leading to insects being active through the austral winter.


17 JUNE 1998. JOHNSTON ATOLL: SEABIRD "Beginnng in late April-early May Johnston Atoll birds (16 deg. N, 169 deg. W) started showing effects of the ENSO event. Sooty chicks of all ages starved to death by the thousands, adults incubating eggs deserted eggs. Chicks still present in June were all underweight and more were dying. Brown Noddy adylts were standing around on territories but not laying eggs. They are about 6-8 weeks late and some should have had fledglings by June. A few were beginning to lay in early June. White Terns were nesting but had higher than normal chick mortality. Red-footed boobies, which lay throughout the year, had essentially stopped laying eggs and only a few birds were incubating eggs or building nests. Red-tailed tropicbird chicks were experiencing higher than normal mortality. Chick mortality is usually about 1% and 99% of those chicks die within the first week of life. There was probably 2-3% chick mortality occurring and many older chicks were dying. No chicks weighed over about 750 g when usually they reach an asymptotic mass of 900g. The population of many of the species nesting on Johnston has increased over the past 15 years that I have been monitoring it. It appears that nest numbers will not increase this year owing to the ENSO."-B.A> Schreiber


18 JUNE 1998. AUSTRALIA: DISEASE (DENGUE) Radio Australia - World News: "Health officials say vigilance is needed to halt the spread of dengue fever to new areas. Nationally 270 cases of dengue fever have been reported - compared to 188 last year. Dengue fever is restricted to northern Queensland, where the carrying mosquito can be found. The biggest dengue outbreak recently was in Cairns, with the strain originating in Thailand. A year before 200 cases were a strain from African nation Burkino Faso. The mosquito [vector] has now spread towards the Northern Territory and New South Wales borders. The report says another [vector] mosquito from Asia and Papua New Guinea is an ongoing threat, especially if it continues to arrive in ships or on planes." --Robin Hide VIA ProMED-mail post


19 JUNE 1998. CALIFORNIA: OCEANOGRAPHY AND FISHERIES U.S. West Coast Oceanography and Fisheries---Excerpts from the "NOAA/NESDIS El Nino Watch Advisory 98-5, May 1998: Despite the continued breakdown of El Nino conditions in the equatorial Pacific, residual effects are expected to keep local sea surface temperatures (SSTs) slightly above normal off much of the U.S. West Coast through the summer. At the equatorial Pacific in May, sea surface temperatures returned to normal west of 110 degrees longitude, but warmer than normal waters still remain in coastal waters from Baja north to Vancouver. In May, the Pacific Northwest showed little change in SSTs from the previous month (2 deg F above normal) and the central California coast cooled only a degree (to 2 deg F above normal). Southern California waters experienced increased warming to 3-4 degrees F above normal for May. Upwelling from central California south to Baja was well below normal, which may account for residual warming of waters off southern California. Toward the end of the month, good catches of albacore were being made just 40 miles west and southwest of San Diego, and were also reported off Morro Bay. Good salmon fishing was reported along the northern portion of the southern California Bight following periods of strong winds that cooled water temperatures, and good salmon fishing was also reported off central California during May. VIA S.E. Smith


23 JUNE 1998. SOUTHERN U.S.: DROUGHT ENN reports that Texas Tech University researchers believe drought conditions this summer may continue this winter as La Niña conditions will be warmer and dryer than ENSO conditions were, although increased risk of hurricanes during La Niña may generate some rain. Contact: Richard Peterson, Texas Tech <Tel. (806)742-3101>.


23 JUNE 1998. BRAZIL: DISEASE (DENGUE) "The official numbers for dengue fever in Minas Gerais, Brazil, now that the epidemic is almost under control, are the following: - Classical dengue fever: confirmed cases: 114,291 - DHF [dengue hemorrhagic fever]: confirmed: 19 Suspected: 26 - Deaths : 4" --Alexandre Moura VIA ProMED <>


24 JUNE 1998. MEXICO: DROUGHT "Just wanted to update you on the drought situation here in this part of Mexico. In Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, where I live, and here at the Instituto de Ecologia, we've finally had the onset of the spring rainy season (el aguacero). It started yesterday and the day before with some hard, driving rains. According to the locals, the onset of this year's rains (which we all hope this is) was delayed about 6 weeks. It normally begins somewhere around mid-May. Incidentally, it's also the first rain we've had here in over two months, a situation hardly normal for a temperate cloud forest. (I guess I've got a personal stake in the rain events because I have two large vegetable gardens that I'm trying to maintain!)"--Dan Bennack


24 JUNE 1998. INDIA: MONSOONS Reuters reports that India's monsoons had their earliest onset in 97 years with most rains beginning 15 - 16 June.. Rainfalls are expected to be normal, despite lingering ENSO effects.


24 JUNE 1998. BRAZIL. EFFECTS: HUMAN UNICEF reported that children in the country's drought-stricken northeastern region were turning to prostitution to feed themselves and their families, according to an Environmental News Network report.


25 JUNE 1998. U.S. (PACIFIC COAST): SEABIRD "We are conducting a coordinated effort to investigate the effects of the 1997-1998 El Nino on seabirds as indicators of the status of coastal marine ecosystems throughout the North Pacific Ocean. The project, funded by the Environmental Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in response to the El Nino Rapid Response Initiative, involves standardized studies of reproductive chronology, aspects of reproductive performance, and food habits for Cassin's Auklets, Rhinoceros Auklets, and Common Murres, and other seabird species at 11 study sites over 30o of latitude from southern California through the Bering Sea. Coprincipal investigators and field supervisors include Doug Bertram (Simon Fraser University), Julia Parrish (University of Washington), Vernon Byrd and Leslie Slater (Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge), Bill Sydeman, Nadav Nur, Aaron Hebshi, Julie Thayer, Michelle Hester, and Kelly Hastings (Point Reyes Bird Observatory), Paige Martin (Channel Islands National Park), Scott Hatch (U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division), and Ed Murphy (University of Alaska, Fairbanks). Fieldwork for southern study sites initiated in March, and for northern sites in June. Reports indicate severe coastal marine ecosystem food-web collapse in California, and possibly British Columbia. Brief updates (based upon fieldwork through early June) from some field sites are provided below:


California, Cassin's Auklet, Prince Island, from Aaron Hebshi (PRBO): (1) egg-laying delayed by 4©6 weeks, (2) occupancy of nest sites about half of normal, (3) higher than normal egg abandonment.


California, Rhinoceros Auklet. Ano Nuevo Island © from Julie Thayer (PRBO): (1) egg-laying delayed by about 2 weeks, (2) higher than normal level of egg abandonment, (3) breeding effort similar to that observed in previous years.


California, Cassin's Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant, Western Gull, Southeast Farallon Island, from Michelle Hester and Kelly Hastings (PRBO): (1) Cassin' Auklet egg laying delayed by 8 weeks and breeding effort reduced by about 50%, (2) Common Murre egg-laying delayed by 4 weeks, breeding effort significantly reduced by about 30%, and greater than normal egg loss, (3) Rhinoceros Auklet egg-laying delayed by 2 weeks, but no apparent change in breeding effort, (4) Pigeon Guillemot may forgo breeding; no egg-laying noted to date, (5) Brandt's and Pelagic cormorant breeding effort reduced by about 75% for each species, (6) Western Gull chronology effectively normal, with a small reduction in egg size, but increased chick mortality noted.


Oregon © Common Murre, Yakina Head, from Julia Parrish (UW): (1) 2-4 weeks late, (2) some chicks are hatching, but eggs also abandoned (1/3 to date), (3) parents remaining on the colony, sometimes intermittently sitting on their abandoned eggs, or in their breeding spot, after gulls have chowed down on the egg, (4) dead murres are beginning to appear on local beaches.


Washington, Common Murre, Tatoosh Island, from Julia Parrish (UW): (1) laying exactly on time - laying began the second week in june, (2) many eggs lost due to increasing eagle pressure driving a lay-and-lose cycle, (3) in "protected" habitats, egg numbers may be down, although we are just reaching peak laying.


British Columbia, Cassin's Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murre, Triangle Island, from Doug Bertram (SFU): (1) CAAU layed eggs (median approx. 20 April) roughly 10d later than in previous years, breeding effort is considerably reduced, with burrow occupancy about 30% compared to 60% in 3 previous years, chick growth in early development was "normal" but recently in the later stages mortality has been very high (up to 50% in some plots) ©© only the earliest hatched nestlings appear to be gaining enough mass to fledge successfully, food samples appear to be largely composed of fish instead of zooplankton; (2) RHAU layed eggs roughly 1Od earlier (median 3 May) than in the 3 previous years, burrow occupancy was 50% compared with 60-80% in previous years, nestling growth is good so far, "bill load" samples from 15 June (first weekly bout) comprised predominantly sandlance (0, 1 and 2 + year classes) which have been scarce in recent years; (3) COMU attendance at the colony suggests similar numbers to the past three years, presently in the early to mid egg laying period, but have no data from other years for comparison.


Alaska © Rhinoceros Auklet, Middleton Island, from Scott Hatch (USGS-BRD): (1) population continues to increase; total burrow entrances counted was 4,000+, up from 2,744 in 1992, (2) using a video burrow camera extensively in RHAU work. We've established plots of some 50-60 burrows with eggs that will remain little disturbed so as to provide measure of egg hatching and chick rearing success, (3) nothing unusual about the chronology -- but need to check carefully against past information, (4) as a side note, the early-season food supply of kittiwakes (which consists of mid-water, oceanic prey like myctophids, squids, and crustaceans) apparently has held up well this spring, as we've seen several 3-egg clutches on the island which are unusual. Time will tell whether the later-season sandlance-capelin system fails as usual, resulting in poor chick survival at Middleton."--Bill Sydeman


25 JUNE 1998. LA NINA ENN reports that NOAA predicts a strengthening La Niña event may bring a cold, wet early winter to the Northwest. The Southeast should have a wamer winter than usual as La Niña takes effect this fall and winter. Warm and dry conditions will prevail in Texas and the Southwest. Weather conditions are likely to be more variable as the jet stream will be over the U.S., not to the south, in Mexico.


25 JUNE 1998. U.S.: CLIMATE ENN reports that, at the national level, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. reports spring 1998 was the 47th wettest and the 24th driest since 1895, but it was the seventh driest in the South and eighth wettest in the west. It was the second wettest spring for Idaho, and eighth wettest for California.


26 JUNE 1998. MEXICO: DROUGHT The Associated Press reports that Mexico's five-year old drought is the worst in 70 years, with ENSO being blamed for a shift in dry conditions to central and southern Mexico. Children and cattle alike are dying of dehydration, crops are withering on in the fields, and fires have destroyed extensive runs of forest. The Chiapas coffee crop will be half its normal level. Rainfall is 54% below normal and reservoirs are at 15 - 20 % capacity. Recovery will take four to six years. La Niña conditions may aggravate drought conditions in the north.


29 JUNE 1998. LA NINA ENN reports that it is not yet clear that the cold-water mass in the eastern pacific is in fact a sign of a LA Niña event. This won't become clear until August or September, with the full effects of La Niña not felt until next winter according to scientists at NASA's JPL in Pasadena, Calif.


30 JUNE 1998. EL SALVADOR: DISEASE (DENGUE) La Nacion - Costa Rica: "This source has reported 493 classic dengue cases this year in San Salvador and identified 2 cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever (it is not clear if these are a separate class or if they are included in the larger number). Public health officials are concerned because there were [only] 423 cases of classic dengue in 1997, with no hemorrhagic cases reported. Officials are urging more aggressive mosquito eradication programs because dengue in its hemorrhagic form has been identified this year." Carol Pennel VIA ProMED


30 JUNE 1998. SOUTHEASTERN U.S.: INSECTS Elliott Minor of the Associated Press reports that a wet winter has led to a bumper crop of blackflies extending into areas where the biting insects have not previous been a problem.


2 JULY 1998. ILLINOIS: TERRESTRIAL MAMMALS (OPOSSUMS) The Environmental News Network reports that Illinois' opossum population is up 60 - 70 % from last year because of a warm ENSO-driven winter.


2 JULY 1998. USA: EFFECTS (DEATH OF POLICE) The National Association of Chiefs of Police reports a record eight officer fatalities by drowning in part because of ENSO--Lt. Morton Feldman, National Association of Chiefs of Police, (202) 293-9088.


3 JULY 1998. VIETNAM: DISEASE (DENGUE) According to a report in the Thanh Nie newspaper in Hanoi, dengue fever has killed 17 children in the past month. Overall, there has been twice as many dengue cases reported this year as last. In Dong Nai region alone, 2,200 children have been diagnosed." Dorothy Preslar VIA ProMED


3 JULY 1998; U.S.: DISEASE (HANTAVIRUSES) As of June 22, 1998, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has confirmed a total of 185 cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in 29 states. Four cases with onset in 1998 have been confirmed so far. Updated Statistics: N=185 81 (44%) died Male: 113 (61%) White: 140 (76%) American Indian: 39 (21%) Black: 5 Asian: 1 Hispanic: 21 (11%) Mean Age: 37 [11-69]"--Joni Young ON ProMED <>


4 JULY 1998. SINGAPORE: DISEASE (DENGUE) The Singapore Times reports: "Dengue fever cases are still on the rise. There were 2,079 cases in the first five months of this year, compared with 1,285 cases in the same period last year. Construction sites are a haven for these pests, which can breed wherever water collects, from uncompleted floors to discarded building materials."--Clyde Markon on A ProMED


5 JULY 1998. MICHIGAN: CLIMATE Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Wayne County: " Detroit has recorded its warmest first half of a year since records began here in 1870. The average temperature for the first six months of 1998 was 49.0 degrees, which shattered the old record of 48.3 degrees set in 1921. It is also interesting to note that four of the top ten years in this category occurred within the past eleven years. Here is a break down for the first six months of 1998: January: 9.9 deg above normal February: 11.3 deg above normal March: 3.8 deg above normal April: 3.1 deg above normal May: 7.2 deg above normal June: 1.5 deg above normal Note: This data comes from the National Weather Service Office in Detroit (White Lake)."-- Paul H. Gross <>


6 JULY 1998. INDIAN OCEAN: CORAL (BLEACHING) FROM NOAA <> "An episode of extremely high ocean temperatures migrated from south to north throughout the Indian Ocean during the first six months of 1998 causing considerable coral reef bleaching in its wake, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports. Sea surface temperatures, exceeding the maximum values expected for any time during the year, were observed by NOAA's satellites to have exceeded levels critical to cause bleaching where these waters overlay Indian Ocean coral reefs. A somewhat similar episode occurred following the 1987 El Nino in the Indian Ocean; however, in 1988 the extreme sea surface temperature anomalies, toxic to corals, moderated sufficiently as the sun moved into the Northern Hemisphere. In that year, reefs in the Indian Ocean north of the equator were spared heavy bleaching. In 1998, this has not been the case. Earlier predicted by NOAA, bleaching has been reported in the Indian Ocean reefs of: Seychelles; Kenya; Reunion; Mauritius; Somalia; Madagascar; Maldives; Indonesia; Sri Lanka; Gulf of Thailand [Siam]; Andaman Islands; Malaysia; Oman; India; and Cambodia. This unprecedented round of bleaching in coral reefs throughout the Indian Ocean follows El Nino-related bleaching events during late-1997 and early-1998 both projected by NOAA's satellite HotSpot charts and documented by reef scientists in Mexico (Pacific), Panama (Pacific); Galapagos; Australia's Great Barrier Reef; Papua New Guinea; and American Samoa. In the Indian Ocean, sea surface temperature anomalies appear to be coming less severe toward the end of June. The total area covered by "HotSpots" is now only in the northernmost fringes of the Indian Ocean. However, during June the Philippines and the Florida Keys regions have been seeing temperature anomalies sufficiently high that bleaching has been reported and biologists are concerned for reefs there. Coral reefs -- the "rainforests of the oceans" -- support a variety of sea life and provide resources of significant economic importance such as fishing and recreation. Coral bleaching, induced by high water temperatures, has raised concerns about these fragile ecosystems. Coral bleaching occurs as coral tissue expels zooxanthellae, a type of algae that resides in the structure of the coral, and is essential to the coral's survival. Corals normally recover from this bleaching process, unless high ocean temperatures persist for too long a period or become too warm to permit recovery. If the corals do not recover, they can no longer provide a safe nursery for juvenile fish or provide shelter for lobsters, crabs, and shellfish. Coral Reef "HotSpots" depicted as regions of yellow/orange in the NOAA charts <> highlight those anomalies that are equal to or above the annual maximum sea surface temperatures by +1 deg C or more. HotSpot animations are available at the Oceanic Research &Applications Division's WebSite:


6 JULY 1998. CHINA: FLOODS CNN and the Associated Press report that 400 or more have been killed as an early raining season led to the predicted floods that occur in ENSO years. The Yangtze River was in flood along 1,000 km of its course, destroying crops and displacing almost 400,000 people. Four million are working to shore-up levees.


6 JULY 1998. CALIFORNIA: MARINE MAMMAL (DISEASE?) "The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was cited as saying Monday that the mysterious deaths of more than 50 California sea lions in May were blamed on a naturally occurring toxic algae. Biologists from the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Ocean Service added that an algal bloom created a biotoxin called domoic acid that affects the nervous system of animals, causing seizures, vomiting and sometimes death. Almost 100 adult and juvenile California sea lions in obvious physical distress washed ashore in late May along the California coast from San Luis Obispo to Santa Cruz. Rescuers from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito said that of the animals they treated, more than 50 died and about 38 were still alive."--ANIMALNET VIA Robert A. LaBudde ON ProMED <>


6 JULY 1998. FLORIDA: FIRES FROM NOAA: "Information on Florida's unusual weather that set the stage for its raging forest fires has been placed on the World Wide Web by NOAA. The Web site, developed by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center , was unveiled by Vice President Al Gore, who visited fire sites in Florida. The Web site, titled "Florida Wild Fires and Climate Extremes," explains how Florida's unusual weather led to the fires. The unusually wet mild winter in Florida promoted abundant growth in the underbrush. This weather was immediately followed by a severe drought during April, May and June, which rapidly dried out the dense underbrush. This combination -- wet and mild in the winter, dry and hot in the summer -- provided abundant fuel to the wildfires throughout Florida. Details on recent abnormal weather, including temperature and precipitation as well as drought indices, are available on the Web site. Links to related Web sites, such as NOAA satellite imagery of the fires and the fire forecast, are provided."--


7 JULY 1998. NORTHEAST U.S.: CLIMATE The Environmental News Network reported that the northeastern states of the United States have had their warmest first six months since records began to be recorded in 1895, 5 degrees F above normal. Precipitation was close to normal.


7 JULY 1998: WORLD: TEMPERATURE The Environmental News Network reported the British Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia reported the first six months of 1998 as the "warmest first half of a year globally since records began".


8 JULY1998. VIETNAM: DISEASE (DENGUE) Vietnam News (Internet): "The central province of Quang Tri's healthcare sector reports that 83 of its 138 communes have nearly 4,500 dengue patients, ten times more than last year. The epidemic is spreading to 21 communes in Hai Lang District, which has about 1,850 patients, and 19 communes in Trieu Phong District with 1,180 patients. Healthcare workers have instructed local residents in mosquito-killing methods."--Clyde Markon <>VIA ProMED


8 JULY 1998. COSTA RICA: DISEASE (DENGUE) >From a Associated Press report: "Costa Rican Health Minister Rogelio Pardo declared a red alert Tuesday for the southern part of the country because of an increase in the number of dengue fever cases.The number of cases in southern Golfito province grew from 2 to 22 last week."--Peter Petrisko VIA ProMED


9 JULY 1998. MALAYSIA (SARAWAK): DISEASE (DENGUE) Sarawak Tribune Online: "For the first 25 weeks of this year, 665 cases [of dengue] were reported while 668 were received for the whole of last year. The disease had killed two persons and caused brain damage to another, Assistant Environment and Public Health Minister Dr Soon Choon Teck disclosed here yesterday. The high number of cases were attributed to an outbreak of the disease especially in the Sibu region during the beginning of this year."-- Clyde Markon VIA ProMED


14 JULY1998. CHINA: FLOODS CNN reports ENSO-related flooding has flooded ten provinces, killed over 800 people, and displaced tens of millions of people..


14 JULY 1998. INDIA and BANGLADESH: FLOODS CNN reports 30 dead in Uttar Pradesh and 19 in Bangladesh following monsoonal flooding (it is not clear this is ENSO related-Ed).


14 JULY 1998. UZBEKISTAN, KYRGYZSTAN: FLOODS CNN reports up to 600 dead following flooding in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan last week (it is not clear this is ENSO related-Ed).


14 JULY 1998. CUBA: DROUGHT Cuba requested emergency aid to deal with the effects of an on-going drought, as the country has had only half its normal rainfall. April - June has been the driest in over half a century, forcing people off the land-based on a report on Earth Alert


15 JULY 1998. U.S. ATLANTIC OCEAN: JELLYFISH ENN reports that unusually warm water conditions caused by ENSO have led to the arrival of jellyfish off mid-Atlantic beaches a month earlier.


15 JULY 1998. PHILIPPINES: DISEASE (DENGUE) Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer Internet Edition: "Five more persons, three of them children, died of dengue fever despite fogging operations and a province wide [Oriental Mindoro] campaign on disease awareness. This brought to 16 the number of persons who have died of the viral disease in Oriental Mindoro. The three children died between July 1 and 10. Eighty-four confirmed dengue cases were recorded from June 1 to 10 despite fogging operations in over 2,529 houses and dialogues with affected communities in six dengue-stricken towns."-- Clyde Markon <>VIA PROMED <>


17 JULY 1998. HONDURAS: DISEASE (DENGUE) Deutsche-Presse Agentur: "Five thousand cases of dengue fever were recorded as of Wednesday in Honduras. Another 618 were reported Tuesday in Costa Rica, where the areas most affected were the Puntarenas and Golfito regions on the country's Pacific coast."-- Dorothy Preslar VIA PROMED


20 JULY 1998. HAWAII: DROUGHT The Honolulu Advertiser reports that although the drought has ended on much of the Bigi Island (Hawai'i), the Ka'u area has only received 20% of its expected rain, so the risk of fire and further agricultural loss remains. Hilo is still at 64% of normal, while South Kohala on the lee and drier side of the island has received 200 % of normal rainfall.


21 JULY 1998. ECUADOR (GALAPGOS), PERU, CHILE:SEABIRDS "Here are some notes on threatened and near-threatened seabirds species defined by Collar et al. (Birds to watch 2 : the world list of threatened birds. Cambridge, U.K. : Birdlife International, 1994) observed during a 18-months long birdwatching trip around South America.


Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Galapagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus : A dozen at Bartolome, Galapagos Islands, 01.07.1996. Waved Albatross Diomedea irrorata : hundreds nesting on Española, Galapagos Islands, 28.06.1996. Dark-rumped Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia : 10 around Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, 06.07.1996. Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus : 2 from Salinas, Guayas, 16.05.1997. White-vented Storm-Petrel Oceanites gracilis : A dozen near Rabida, Galapagos Islands, 30.06.1996. Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma tethys : A few individuals near Floreana, Galapagos Islands, 29.06.96. Lava Gull Larus fuliginosus : A few individuals daily, Galapagos Islands, 26.06-10.07.1996.


Peru Humboldt Penguin : Spheniscus humboldti : a dozen, Ballestas Islands, Ica, 26.09.1997. Junin Grebe Podiceps taczanowski : 4-5 very far away, from the west coast of lake Junin, 4 km north of Ondores, Junin, 22.09.1997. Peruvian Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides garnotii : 1 from a touristical boat in Ballestas Islands, Ica, 26.09.1997. Red-legged Cormorant Phalacrocorax gaimardi : uncommon between Pacasmayo and Ballestas Islands.


Chile Humboldt Penguin : Spheniscus humboldti : common, Viña del mar, Valparaiso, 23.11.1997. Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus : a few dozen from a ferry between Puerto Montt and Chacabuco, Aysen, 10.12.1997." --Yan Ottesen VIA


24 JULY 1998: NORTHEAST U.S.:RAIN RECORD ENN reports that 13 June was the wettest day on record for both Boston, Mass., and Providence, R.I. Boston received 5.69 inches, the record was 4.36;Providence received 3.29 inches, the record was 2.97. This was the third wettest June in history for the 12 states in the Northeast, with an average of 6.32 inches, 164% above normal.


27 JULY 1998. : SALMON " On July 27, 1998, the daily average temperatures of water at Bonneville and McNary Dams on the Columbia River were 74 degrees, well in excess of the 68 degrees required by state and federal regulations. Meanwhile, the daily average temperature reached 72 degrees at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. [Assoc Press]" (salmon require cooler waters for survival) AND "Salmon in Hot Water. Between July 11 and July 14, 1998, about 4% of the 1 million fall chinook salmon juveniles passing through the collection system at McNary Dam died, likely from conditions related to elevated water temperatures. On July 27, 1998, the daily average temperatures of water at Bonneville and McNary Dams on the Columbia River were 74 degrees, well in excess of the 68 degrees required by state and federal regulations. Meanwhile, the daily average temperature reached 72 degrees at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. [Assoc Press]"-John Field <> VIA Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <FISH-SCI@SEGATE.SUNET.SE>


29 JULY 1998. U.S.: CROPS ENN reports ENSO-related climate conditions may lead to a 29% drop in the U.S. almond crop.


30 JULY 1998. ALASKA: FISHERY "AK Salmon Season. As of July 22, 1998, about 9.6 million sockeye had been caught in Bristol Bay fisheries. On July 27, 1998, the AK Dept. of Fish & Game (ADF&G) issued emergency restrictions on Kenai River sport fishing to assure that more sockeye salmon escape to spawn. Commercial fishing on Kenai-bound sockeye in Cook Inlet was closed on July 24. The sockeye return was reported as one of the poorest seen in recent years. On July 28, 1998, sockeye returns to the Kenai River were about 134,000 fish less than the 550,000 fish escapement goal, and ADF&G officials suggested that all sport fishing may be banned if more sockeye do not return. On July 28, 1998, ADF&G biologists predicted the return of Kodiak Island pink salmon could be 14 million fish, exceeding the preseason forecast of 9 million fish. On July 30, 1998, AK Governor Tony Knowles declared western AK a disaster area and outlined a $19 million aid program for communities and fishermen. [Assoc Press, Anchorage Daily News]" -John Field <> VIA Scientific forum on fish and fisheries <FISH-SCI@SEGATE.SUNET.SE>


2 AUGUST 1998. PUERTO RICO: DISEASE (DENGUE) "[These came in response to our posting the above Request For Information. Obviously, we are not receiving official information about this epidemic, else we would have posted it. We have heard the epidemic is quite a large one; 4-5 times the number of cases usually seen at this time of year and 2-3 times the 1994-1995 epidemic (at this part of the epidemic curve). In February we posted the following message (Dengue-3 - Puerto Rico 980211072625), in part: "According to the Puerto Rico Secretary of Health, an elderly San Juan man has been diagnosed with dengue 3 virus infection, a virus not detected in Puerto Rico since the 1970s. Dengue 3 virus had been absent from the Americas from 1977 until 1994, when it reappeared in Nicaragua and Panama. If the current epidemic is due to dengue 3 virus, this virus has been smoldering for six months. - Mod.CHC]" -- ProMED


31 JULY 1998. VIETNAM: DISEASE (DENGUE) Source: Wire services "The government of Vietnam has reported at least 166 people have died of dengue in Vietnam so far this year, four times more than at the same time last year. The Ministry of Health said nearly 70,000 people have contracted the disease this year, twice as many as at this time in 1997. In 1997, 226 of the 107,000 people who contracted the virus died. [Mortality rate in each year is 0.2% - Mod.CHC] The disease is expected to peak during the worst of the rainy season, August and September. Hospitals in some provinces were reporting overcrowding, with three patients sharing a single bed at some hospitals." --Clyde Markon VIA ProMED <>


6 AUGUST 1998. AUSTRALIA: DISEASE (DENGUE) "We have had an ongoing battle with the dreaded dengue 3 (DEN 3) virus since December. Fighting tooth and nail, we have been able to "limit" it to 230 confirmed cases as of 4 August. However, we have been unable to put it away. Like plugging holes in the leaky boat, we have had cases show up in new areas as soon as we eliminate it from others. Interestingly, a concurrent outbreak of DEN 2 virus, the "common" S. Pacific strain, was eliminated within a month, while other outbreaks in N. Queensland have been eradicated within 2-3 months of onset. This DEN 3 virus keeps one step ahead of us, despite our use of interior spraying with pyrethroid insecticides.


Other features of the outbreak include: 1. high virulence (ca. 20% hospitalised) and 2. clustering within households The latter suggest that one mosquito is causing grief." -- Scott Ritchie <> VIA ProMED


5 AUGUST 1998. CANADA: FISHERY - THE HIGH PROBABILITY THAT MANY SOCKEYE WILL DIE BEFORE SPAWNING DUE TO HIGH FRASER RIVER TEMPERATURES LEADS TO THE OPENING OF A PRE-EMPTIVE "FISH-OUT" GILLNET FISHERY ON WEDNESDAY (today) AND THURSDAY IN THE FRASER DELTA REGION. Analysis: The commercial Fraser gillnet fishery that has suddenly been opened on Wednesday, 5 days ahead of schedule, can only have serious implications for the spawning escapements of dozens of the smaller 'Early Summer' and 'Summer' sockeye salmon stocks. Opening the river to flat-out commercial fisheries because pre-mortalities are expected due to high temperatures is unprecedented in the history of fisheries management on the Fraser River, and can be directly attributed to lobbying pressure by industry, due to the large increases in prices for sockeye salmon in Canada following the poor Alaskan sockeye landings, and the 'low' Canadian dollar.


Policy Implications: Allowing this kind of thinking to dominate fisheries management spells the end of our wild salmon. Under 'risk averse' management which was supposed to be official DFO policy following the John Fraser inquiry, high river temperatures should mean that more, not less fish should be allowed to reach the spawning grounds. Even if some of the salmon do die before spawning, they will form part of a natural cycle where they will feed birds and mammals and enrich the streams for future generations of salmon and trout, as they have done for millennia. The decision makers know that the Quesnel [Horsefly] runs is highly susceptible to pre-spawning mortality, but the decision to "fish them out" can only hurt the many smaller early runs such as fragile Seymour, Scotch, Anstey, and Eagle ('Early Summer') and Late Stuart, and Stellako ('Summer') sockeye. Rebuilding, already put back by overfishing in 1994 will now be brought to a standstill."--David Ellis IN Dave's fishery


7 AUGUST 1998. FIJI: AGRICULTURE The Honolulu Advertiser reports that 40 -60 % of Fiji's sugar crop was lost to the ENSO-generated drought.


7 AUGUST 1998. MICRONESIA: DROUGHT The Honolulu Advertiser reports that one atoll in Micronesia has run dry and 37 others are also close to being without water. Pohnpei, the capital, normally enjoying one of the highest rainfalls on the planet, has been using brackish water supplies for its own needs and to supply neighboring islands.


10 AUGUST 1998. NEW YORK: INSECTS (DISEASE VECTORS) William Stevens of the New York Times reports that the warm, wet winter associated with ENSO produced an "unusually earl" increase in ticks and mosquitoes, some of them disease vectors, in the New York area.


13 AUGUST 1998. CANADA: FIRES Environmental News Network reports that scores of fires in British Columbia continue to threaten homes as 1,200 firefighters continue to try to contain them.


13 AUGUST 1998. CHINA: FLOODS CNN reports the crest of the Yangtze River successfully passed an area where officials had planned to open dikes, to spread the water out and save cities downstream. This was the fifth flood of the summer and came within less than a foot of the level where the dikes would have had to be opened. The worst flooding in 44 years. The flood has killed over 2,000 people and left millions, and caused outbreaks of dysentery, cholera and typhoid that threaten the survivors. Damage could total more than $24 billion, reducing China's growth rate by 0.5%.


13 AUGUST 1998. KOREA: FLOODS CNN reports over 250 dead and 74 missing following heavy rains in August. Rains are expected to continue. Damage is at least $450 million.


13 AUGUST 1998. BANGLADESH: FLOODS CNN reports monsoonal rains and associated landslides and flooding have killed 315 people, with 60,000 reported as contracting diarrhea.