Introduction to Physical Oceanography
Homework Set 8
Due 19 November 2008
Late homework will cost 15 points per week or
part of a week it is late.
Assume you are working for a consulting company
that is preparing an environmental report for a oil company.
The report must describe the environmental conditions to be
expected in the Gulf of Carpentaria north of Australia
in January 2008. The company wants to begin exploratory drilling that
month. The report is due on 19 November.
Your boss comes to you
at 8:00 AM on 17 November in a panic. She says the report is nearly
complete, but she has
just heard that an El
Niño can cause the actual environmental
conditions in the gulf to differ from the normal conditions described
in the report. She needs a two-page memo plus figures by noon
that can convince her that January 2009 will be normal in the
Pacific so she can issue the environmental report on
schedule. Can you assure her, by noon, that January 2009 will
be normal? Or can you convince her that conditions will be
very different from normal, and that her report must be
revised? If conditions will not be normal, what conditions
relevant to drilling operations are expected. Assume your boss
knows very little about weather and climate, and that she
needs to get an accurate, useful report out the door on
schedule, not statements that more research is needed.
call in a couple of your associates and you begin work. To save time,
you decide to consult the web
sources listed below. You also decide that you ought to
consider answers to the questions below in writing the memo.
Of course, your report will not be in question and answer
form, after all, you are professionals and know how to write
a consultant's report.
Your boss has asked Prof. Stewart to grade your
work. In doing so, he will consider the accuracy of your sources,
the soundness of your reasoning, and the clarity of your
- Does El
Niño influence the area? After
all, if it doesn't, then there is no problem.
- What conditions define El
After all, how can you determine if El
Niño is not happening now
don't know what an El
Niños is? You can find descriptions
of El Niño on
the web. See, for example, the NOAA
Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle El
Niño Theme Page which has
links to information about El
Niño, influence of El
Niño on global and North American
weather patterns, recent observations in the Pacific, and
- What are the present conditions
in the Pacific? To help answer this question, you may wish to look
at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's World
Wide Web pages, especially the pages maintained by the Climate
Analysis Center, who publish the Climate
Diagnostics Bulletin. Check especially the highlights.
The Climate Diagnostics Bulletin does not have the latest
information, so you may also wish to look at the TOGA/TAO
data set which is updated every five days. Check
especially the TAO
Real-Time Data Display (click on the image of winds and temperature
on the TOGA/TAO web page for a zoom). You may also want to look
at the Climate
Prediction Center's El Niño Diagnostics Page and the French El
Niño Bulletin with satellite
data. In understanding
present conditions, you may need to know how the Walker circulation
described in the web pages influences Pacific weather.
- Are present
conditions similar to normal? And, are they likely to stay normal?
You may wish to look at El
Niño forecasts contained
in the Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. Note that the forecasts
are produced independently
by three different groups and that they sometimes contradict
each other. Part of a consultant's job is to sort through
conflicting information to produce a recommendation. Note:
The forecast page contains several large plots that take
some time to download.
- How accurate are the forecasts?
What is the track record of those making the forecast?
- What are the implications for the area and
Hints for Writing Your Report
- Write for the person who will read the
report. If you are writing for a manager, they will not have
the experience and background necessary to understand a
highly technical report full of specialized words.
- Use words they
- Use simple English.
- Keep it short. Most readers will read the first page,
but may stop there.
- Provide the critical information.
- What is wanted?
- Did you provide it? Or did you provide information that had
nothing to do with the Gulf of Carpentaria.
- Will reader believe you? Have you provided enough
information to convince the reader the information
in the report is correct?
- Provide the critical information first, then fill in the reasons
for the your conclusions. No one wants to read all the way through
a report to learn there is nothing to be concerned about.
The first sentence ought to state what the report is about, the second ought
to give the answer.
13 October, 2008