Weather Wise

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The Independent Online
THE EIGHTH International Weather Forecasters' festival will take place at the end of this week in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, where more than 100 television stations will compete for the Best Weather Report Trophy. With sessions devoted to Communications Technologies, the Greenhouse Effect, El Nino, the Internet, and many other weather-related topics, they have a crowded programme, but I hope they will also find room to expand the competitive element.

Let's have a Worst Weather Report, or Most Devastating Unpredicted Hurricane Trophy to go with the other award. Or get delegates to predict the end- of-conference temperature at Issy-les-Moulineaux. The one who is most out has to buy a round of drinks for the rest.

The award I would most like to see is the Most Surprising Event Blamed on El Nino Trophy ... And, barring any late entries, the winner is last week's El Nino History and Crisis Conference at the Australian National University. Richard Grove, the convenor of the conference, has been looking back over the past 5,000 years, and has identified traces of El Nino all over the place. The French Revolution? Well, the social conditions were there, he admits, "but if it hadn't been for El Nino kicking in in 1787- 88 you might not have had a French revolution at all". It was the crop failures of 1788 that really started it. And without El Nino, the Black Death of the late 1340s would never have spread so fast. Then there's the El Nino-induced Irish potato famine. Enough! You win.