Experimental Procedure


This experiment has the purpose of determining the extent of El Nino's effects on water temperature in two areas of the Pacific Ocean. I predict that the change in ocean temperature will be seen more drastically off Asia in early 1997. As the year progresses I predict that the change in water temperature will move strongly to the eastern pacific, off the coast of Ecuador. Overall though I predict that the average change in temperature will remain the same for both areas of the pacific. Since the experiment consists primarily of data retrieval from the internet, the only necessary materials required for conducting the experiment are a computer, and a functional web browser. The first step in conducting this experiment is choosing which weather buoys will be used. A map of the TAO Buoy Array is available here. The most up to date buoys are highlighted in red, and for the purpose of studying El Nino, the buoys located at 0 degrees N 110 degrees W, and 0 degrees N 147 degrees E are the most useful, as they represent the entire span of the pacific. Once the appropriate buoys have been selected, it is necessary to log on to the TAO Buoy Data Delivery web page here Under the category Temperature and Atmospheric Data, Daily Subsurface and the appropriate location of the buoy should be selected. When the previous step has been completed, the button stating Deliver Data is pressed and a large page of information will appear. The first column of data represents the date that the information was taken and it is in the form year, month, day. In other words 971015 represents October 10, 1997. The second column of data, SST, is the subsurface ocean temperature at a depth of 1 meter. This temperature is recorded at the dates chosen, in this case the 1st and 15th of June through February for both during El Nino (97-98) and during normal weather conditions (96-97). Once this is accomplished, the second buoy off the coast of Asia is chosen and the procedure is repeated. Following the conclusion of the retrieval of all the water temperature data, is the analysis of data. For each buoy location the following simple mathematical calculations are necessary. First, for each day that data is taken, a comparison is made of normal to El Nino water temperatures. Second, take the difference in temperature and divide by the normal temperature. The result is the percent by which the water temperature has changed for the given date. All of the differences in temperature as well as the percentages can then be added up and divided by the total number of days for which data is taken in order to create the average change in water temperature as well as the average percent by which the temperature changes. The averages for the eastern and western pacific can then be compared, resulting in conclusive information regarding which area of the pacific sees the greatest environmental change as a result of El Nino.

Sources of Error

1) Human Error- the primary area of possible error involves incorrect understanding and use of the buoy information relay. Possible failure to correctly record the temperatures could result in error.

2) Technological Error- also a possible area for error is the buoys themselves. If the buoy fails to record an accurate temperature the recorded data will be false.

3) Uncontrollable Environmental Phenomenon- the environment is constantly changing and as a result other unknown factors could affect the recorded water temperatures.