Conference to explore El Nino impacts


CORVALLIS - Everyone is already talking about the weather phenomenon of the year, El Nino, but a group of natural resource leaders from government and private industry will meet at Oregon State University on Jan. 20 to find out what they can do about it.

The one-day workshop on "Living With El Nino" will bring together university experts and agency, political and industry representatives to provide a better idea of what to expect and seek cooperative approaches in dealing with this global weather event - one of the strongest in recent history.

Improved policy and decision making on issues of natural resource management, transportation, construction, agriculture and other areas are expected to evolve from the meeting, officials say.

"There's a need to get past misinformation and help people understand what is really going on, how things may progress from here and how they might best deal with the impacts," said Mike Unsworth, director of the Center for Analysis of Environmental Change at OSU.

"We want to listen to the concerns, identify questions and see what we can do to help," he said. "We also want to develop a working relationship and information exchange with industrial and government leaders that we can turn to in the future, for the duration of this El Nino event and those to follow in coming years."

The leading speakers at the seminar include George Taylor, the state climatologist at OSU, and Robert Smith, an OSU professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences. Smith is an expert on coastal currents and upwelling and will address the physical causes of the El Nino event from a marine perspective. Taylor will outline how a large-scale weather phenomenon such as this translates into local impacts and weather events in the Pacific Northwest, and help project what the future may bring.

About 30-35 invited representatives of agriculture, forestry, tourism, transportation and the construction industry are expected at the workshop. It is being hosted by OSU President Paul Risser, and sponsored by the OSU Extension Service and the Center for Analysis of Environmental Change.