RENEW lecture to focus on El Niño, climate change

Published June 11, 2018

El Niño and climate change will be the topic of a RENEW Innovation Lecture on June 14.

The lecture, given by UB alumnus Michael McPhaden, senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, will take place at 11 a.m. in the Honors College, 107 Capen Hall, North Campus.

It is free and open to the UB community.

McPhaden, an expert in large-scale tropical ocean dynamics, ocean-atmosphere interactions and the ocean’s role in climate, will discuss the 2015-16 El Niño. A surprisingly intense event, it rivaled the 1997-98 El Niño — the strongest on record — in its magnitude and impact.

In 2015-16, El Niño-related drought, flooding, extreme weather and wild fires affected far-reaching parts of the globe, with consequences for agriculture, power generation, economic development and human health.

In his talk, McPhaden will describe the evolution of the 2015-16 El Niño, the physical mechanisms that gave rise to it, how it compared to previous El Niño events and how well it was predicted by various forecasting centers. He also will address the question of whether anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing is having an effect on El Niño.

A 1973 graduate of UB with a BS in physics and PhD in physical oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, McPhaden has been involved for more than 35 years in developing ocean observing systems for climate research and forecasting, most notably the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean moored buoy array in the Pacific for studies of El Niño and the Southern Oscillation.

A past president of the American Geophysical Union, he has published nearly 300 articles in the refereed scientific literature and is one of the most highly cited authors on the topic of El Niño.

McPhaden shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore and other participants of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body for assessing the science related to climate change.