You got to love the weather. Just when you think you got it figured out, someone throws a monkey wrench at you and suddenly you got it all wrong.
As I’m sure you know, El Niño and La Nina are heat patterns in the Pacific Ocean that affect the weather in North America, and creates the extremes of either drought or floods in California. Actually, these forces affect weather in various ways in various parts of the world.
It’s supposed to be a La Nina year, which would usually mean a dry year, but this year, that may not mean what it usually means. Suddenly the weather experts say this year, other climate patterns are expected to be more influential than El Nino/La Nina. The experts say the Madden-Julian Oscillation is taking over, wiping out the effect of La Nina, and sending us some rain.
The Madden-Julian Oscillation is a pulse of moisture near the equator that typically moves eastward every 30 to 60 days. This pulse of water is changing the Pacific jet stream so that it has a greater influence on weather in the US. Also, the Arctic Oscillation sends major snow storms southward in its mid-level jet stream. These are the storms that can paralyze American cities and fill the Sierras with lots of future irrigation water.
So what does all this mean, and what are the experts expecting? All the reports I could find made me wish for some Tule fog. Nobody knows for sure what they mean for winter this year. Long range forecasts don’t work well with these forces; they just are not predictable for much longer than a month.
But some weathermen are expecting heavy rainthis year. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting warmer-than-average temperatures for much of the U.S. this winter. Some areas will have colder-than-average weather. For rain in central and Southern California, flip a coin, it may be as accurate as the experts this year.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.