Our Affair with El Niņo: How We Transformed an Enchanting Peruvian Current Into a Global Climate Hazard

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Princeton University Press, 2004 - Nature - 275 pages

Until 1997, few people had heard of the seasonal current that Peruvians nicknamed El Niņo. But when meteorologists linked it to devastating floods in California, severe droughts in Indonesia, and strange weather everywhere, its name became entrenched in the common parlance faster than a typhoon making landfall. Bumper stickers appeared bearing the phrase "Don't blame me; blame El Niņo." Stockbrokers muttered "El Niņo" when the market became erratic.

What's behind this fascinating natural phenomenon, and how did our perceptions of it change? In this captivating book, renowned oceanographer George Philander engages readers in lucid and stimulating discussions of the scientific, political, economic and cultural developments that shaped our perceptions of this force of nature.

The book begins by outlining the history of El Niņo, an innocuous current that appears off the coast of Peru around Christmastime--its name refers to the Child Jesus--and originally was welcomed as a blessing. It goes on to explore how our perceptions of El Niņo were transformed, not because the phenomenon changed, but because we did. Philander argues persuasively that familiarity with the different facets of our affair with El Niņo--our wealth of experience in dealing with natural hazards such as severe storms and prolonged droughts--can help us cope with an urgent and controversial environmental problem of our own making--global warming.

Intellectually invigorating and a joy to read, Our Affair with El Niņo is an important contribution to the debate about the relationship between scientific knowledge and public affairs.

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Contents

II
1
III
11
IV
28
V
34
VI
40
IX
65
X
81
XI
93
XVIII
161
XIX
177
XX
189
XXI
213
XXIII
227
XXIV
237
XXVI
240
XXVII
244

XII
118
XIII
129
XV
139
XVII
151
XXVIII
251
XXIX
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XXX
273
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About the author (2004)

George Philander is Knox Taylor Professor of Geosciences (Meteorology) at Princeton University. He is the author of Is the Temperature Rising: The Uncertain Science of Global Warming (Princeton).

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