Ethnoclimatology in the Andes
The content you've requested is available without charge only to active Sigma Xi members and American Scientist subscribers.
If you are an active member or an individual subscriber, please log in now in order to access this article.
If you are not a member or individual subscriber, you can:
For at least the past four centuries, indigenous potato farmers of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes have gathered in midwinter to gaze up into the night sky and observe the Pleiades. If this star cluster appears big and bright to them, they think that they will have plentiful rains and big harvests the next summer; if the cluster appears small and dim, they anticipate less abundance. Their belief is so strong that they time the planting of their crops accordingly. One might imagine that this practice amounts to nothing more than an odd superstition, but it turns out that this scheme actually works: The apparent size and brightness of the Pleiades varies with the amount of thin, high cloud at the top of the troposphere, which in turn reflects the severity of El Niño conditions over the Pacific. Because rainfall in this region is generally sparse in El Niño years, this simple method provides a valuable forecast, one that is as good or better than any long-term prediction based on computer modeling of the ocean and atmosphere.
Connect With Us:
An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.
To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.
JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.
The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.
View the full collection here.
Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.