All Climate Events
Webinar: La Nina Came to Eden: Bjerknes Meets Hitchcock
Tuesday, 03 May 2022, 2:00
Abstract: In July 1929, Dr Friedrich Ritter and his mistress Dore Strauch left their spouses and the turmoil of post-World War I Germany for the remote, uninhabited, and rugged volcanic island of Floreana in the Galapagos archipelago. Their dream was to live self-sufficiently in an idyllic tropical setting unspoiled by civilization. Yachts stopping at Floreana in the early 1930s after Ritter and Strauch established a homestead reported to the outside world on their pioneering enterprise. The news created a sensation that subsequently attracted other settlers to the island, one of whom, a mysterious Austrian faux baroness, vexed Ritter and Strauch to the point of open hostility. Not all the participants in this drama survived the experience of colonizing Floreana
though. A prolonged drought that gripped the island from 1933 to 1935 led to food shortages and ultimately the death of Dr. Ritter, who unwittingly ate tainted chicken out of desperation. The bizarre intrigues, extraordinary adventures, and struggles to endure on Floreana were chronicled in Dore Strauch's 1936 memoir Satan Came to Eden and a 2013 Hollywood documentary based on it. A story that has not been told is how climate variability, and in particular an extended period of cold La Nia conditions in 1933-35, led to the drought that caused food shortages on the island. We will use reconstructed sea surface temperatures, an atmospheric reanalysis, and other data sources to describe the evolution of the 1933-35 La Nia and how it affected the human drama that unfolded on Floreana Island. This protracted La Nia event had impacts felt in other parts of the globe as well and in particular was a major influence on the development of the 1930s Dust Bowl in the southern plains of the United States.
Bio(s): Dr. Michael McPhaden is a Senior Scientist at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington. His research focuses on large-scale tropical ocean dynamics, ocean-atmosphere interactions, and the ocean's role in climate. He received a Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1980. For the past 40 years he has been involved in developing ocean observing systems for climate research and forecasting, most notably the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) moored buoy array in the Pacific for studies of El Nio and the Southern Oscillation. Dr. McPhaden is a Past President of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), an organization of over 60,000 Earth and space scientists from 140 countries. He has published over 300 articles in the refereed scientific literature and is one of the most highly cited authors on the topic of El Nino. He is a Nansen Medalist of the European Geosciences Union, a Sverdrup Medalist of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and a fellow of the Oceanography Society, the AMS and the AGU. For his contributions to assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore and other IPCC participants.