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Visualizing El Niño

March 4, 2009

southernfriedsquareTaichi, one of my fellow grad students and El Niño modeler extraordinaire, has produced a fantastic video of what El Niño is and how it forms.

El Niño is one example of a kind of climate variability that is well understood by a small group of scientists, but very poorly understood by educated citizens. I believe visualization technology is one method that could help disseminate current scientific knowledge about El Niño to the educated public. Over the last year I have created an animation to communicate the essence of El Niño phenomenon.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

The high definition versions of these videos can be found HERE.

~Southern Fried Scientist

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2009 12:25 pm

    holy crap, Tachiro. That was massively more fascinating than I anticipated. I can’t even imagine the amount of work that went into producing this.

    Before I watched these, if asked about El Nino, I probably would have mumbled something about tempoary warm water, not having a clue what I was talking about. But now I feel like I actually have a pretty firm (if basic) understanding of it. And the explanation of La Nina as simple overshoot in recovery now makes perfect sense.

    The whole process is striking in how it’s the disequilibrium that’s responsible for the normal condition and how a return to equilibrium throws everything off.

    It reminds me of the lesson I teach in general bio on how life itself has created disequilibrium in our atmosphere (e.g. oxygen), and it’s this disequilibrium that allows life as we know it.

    Very well done!

  2. March 7, 2009 10:02 am

    Excellent presentation and very well done! This has got to be the best presentation and explanation of El Nino I’ve come across. Seeing that I can now comprehend what El Nino and La Nina are, which is a feat in itself. Not only that but will now be able to explain it. Bravo!

  3. March 18, 2009 9:59 am

    WOW!! I am a History major from a long time ago; so, I consider myself educated. I was wowed by your presention. It was “fairly” simple and understanble, naration was wonderful, and just overall fantastic. You have a wonderful future ahead of you. My hats off to you.
    Brenda Golden
    Duke Medicine Development

  4. March 31, 2009 9:16 am

    I congratulate you on a marvelous series on El Niño and I echo the fact that it is one of a kind.

    If there is one small comment that I might make, since studying the terrestrial effects of El Niño for many years…. well, since 1983…

    The term La Niña is a misconstrued attempt to make something simple that is really more complex. The term, El Niño, directly refers to the Christ child who came in December, like the warm currents that so drastically change the off-shore waters and on-shore lomas formations. While should you take the time to look up El Niño in a dictionary… sure it say small boy, but it was not just any small boy. The first known reference to the opposite of El Niño was “El Viejo” or the old one… this was coined for the cold phase by the same fishermen that referred to warm current as El Niño. When some began to call the opposite phase, the anti-El Niño, critics quickly suggested it smacked of the “Anti-Christ” When discussed with these same fishermen, they scoff at the term “La Niña”, saying with a wink, young girls are never cold. So there you have it, the first record I can find of La Niña is by the renowned oceanographer George Philander. While it is perhaps a convenient tool and provides a metaphor (all be it incorrectly) for a very complex phenomenon, it lacks grace. ;)>

    Again, forgive this rant, your level of accomplishment is very high. Maybe someday your group will get the bug to do an animation of the on-shore dynamics that accompany the ocean phenomena.

  5. Lisa Del Muro permalink
    April 20, 2009 10:21 am

    This is wonderful. It takes a very complex topic and breaks it down into understandable parts.

    Is it possible to get a copy of this. I use this in my high school classroom. But have a hard time streaming it.

  6. Coco permalink
    April 20, 2009 1:24 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I am not a science gal at all, but those videos helped me understand. So interesting! Now I can shock and awe my friends with my new found knowledge about “El Nino!”

  7. kdid permalink
    April 20, 2009 10:31 pm

    This was so informative. I can now say that I know so much more about El Nino than I probably would have ever learned. I actually could not have told you what it even was until now. I’m really glad I got to watch all of that.

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    The Southern Fried Scientist

    Andrew is a graduate student in North Carolina studying deep sea biology. When not in the lab, he spends his time out on the water, usually swearing at his boat while simultaneously sacrificing some important tool to Poseidon in a desperate attempt to make the motor start. That is, assuming he can get his truck running long enough to actually put the boat in the water. He enjoys long walks on the beach, by necessity. Follow him on Twitter @SFriedScientist.


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    Amy is a graduate student in North Carolina studying local ecological knowledge within the blue crab fishery. She spends half her life studying the most charismatic of organisms - humans - and the estuaries on which they depend. While not contemplating grand social theories, she enjoys a good jam session and watching sunsets over the estuary. Follow her on Twitter @bgrassbluecrab.

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