How Wayward Tuna Help Forecasters Predict El Niño

When water warms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, different types of tuna will migrate into the waters near San Diego. Keeping track of a fisherman's catch can help meteorologists predict the severity of an oncoming El Niño.

What's the Latest?


Forecasters are pretty dead set on this being an El Niño year. While meteorologists have many ways to measure and predict the extreme weather phenomenon, there's one method in particular readers may find somewhat fishy. Tim Barnett, marine research physicist emeritus with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, says the secret to judging the potential impact of an El Niño is in tuna. That's right, tuna:

Barnett said the ’97-’98 event caused a northward shift of the whole fishery population, drawing an abundance of albacore and Bluefin tuna to San Diego’s unusually warm waters.

“We’ve already started to see very unusual fish catches here,” Barnett said. “The first yellowfin tuna was caught in May — that has never happened before to anybody’s recollection.”

What's the Big Idea?

Barnett explains that when an El Niño warms the the tropical Pacific, fish that aren't native to the waters around San Diego tend to appear there as early as May. Some species get carried even farther north. In 1997, another El Niño year, fishermen in Kodiak, Alaska were dumbfounded when they pulled yellowtail tuna out from the sea. That type of fish is so rare in those parts that the fishermen actually had to send their catches down to California to have them identified. While it's still early to determine just how large-scale this year's El Niño will be, Barnett sees the wayward fish as a foreboding omen for a wet and wild summer.

Read more at KPBS

Photo credit: SOMKKU / Shutterstock.com

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less