Recent El Niño brought downpour of media coverage



Media coverage of the 1997-1998 tropical ocean warming event made the term “El Nino” a household word. So pervasive was coverage of El Nino that it became the fodder of late night talk show monologues and an oft-invoked gremlin responsible for many of society's ailments. As a fisheries biologist studying climate impacts on marine resources, I followed the event very closely and created an El Nino Web site (http://www. hare/html/1997ENSO/ 1997ENSO.html) in the spring of 1997 when the magnitude of the event was becoming obvious.

As part of my daily routine in updating the Web page, I began tracking El Nino media coverage over the Internet. Between June 1997 and July 1998,1 accumulated links to stories about El Nino. I attempted to maintain a constant level of effort so that the number of stories accurately reflected the level of coverage given the event as it progressed. In fisheries lingo, this is known as a Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) index. Because Internet content is often removed after a period of time, a retrospective accumulation of daily stories would not yield as accurate a count as the contemporary CPUE index I maintained.