EL NIÑO TRYING TO TELL US?
January 3, 2010
announcement was made on July 9, 2009, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) and ignored by virtually everyone. "NOAA scientists
today announced the arrival of El Niño, a climate phenomenon with
a significant influence on global weather . . . . The periodic warming
of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters occurs on average every
two to five years and typically lasts about 12 months. NOAA expects this
El Niño to continue developing during the next several months,
with further strengthening possible. The event is expected to last through
may have noticed a little more rain than usual during this fall and beginning
of winter. Or, if you live in a part of the world different from where
I am, you may have noticed there that everyone there is talking about
the unusual drought. In any case, based on the NOAA report, in 2010 we
will have something besides global climate change to "explain"
why the weather is different: El Niño.
this column is a repeat from an earlier column--for what I think are two
good reasons. First, it's about the weather, which is a timeless subject.
And second, people are still in holiday mode as they ring in the new year.
I don't think they want to hear breaking news about a new ecological discovery,
be told why forest fires are sometimes good, or read a list of ways to
avoid an attack by alligators and Komodo dragons. So here is some weather
think talking about the weather is inane and boring. I do not agree. But
in the spirit of full disclosure here are some points of view from the
other side. Oscar Wilde stated that "conversation about the weather
is the last refuge of the unimaginative." And Kin Hubbard, an Indiana
humorist, said, "Don't knock the weather. If it didn't change once
in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation."
Perhaps the most hurtful statement to those of us who find weather fascinating
came from the pen of Thomas Fuller, a British physician who died in the
18th century. "Change of weather is the discourse of fools."
Hey, back off. Some of us like weather talk, even if it is just a harmless
way to complain.
seem to be able to write about the weather without mentioning the foolishness
of something I do each day, along with several billion other people, which
is check the weather forecast. Not just for the day, but for the week!
Why do we continue to pay any attention to a weather forecast? My cousin
Steve, who is a meteorologist, asserts that "nowcasting" is
the only reliable weather report. Put your hand out the window to see
if it's raining or snowing, hot or cold. He notes that meteorological
studies have documented that the prediction that the weather tomorrow
will be exactly like it was today is more likely to be right than any
other predictions that are made.
proof of how unreliable long-range weather forecasts typically are? Tape
those five-day projections on your refrigerator each day for a week then
line up what happened today with what was predicted five days ago. You
will find the earlier forecast about whether it would rain was right about
as many times as it was wrong.
between wild animals and humans is that animals that based their survival
on the misguided belief that they were able to predict the weather eventually
left no descendants. That kind of thinking no longer exists in the animal
kingdom, except for humans. So why do we all keep checking the weather
report? Someone named Patrick Young has part of the answer: "The
trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to
ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it."
As a case
in point, the NOAA's very long-range prediction of July 9, 2009, was right
on target. "NOAA expects this El Niño to continue developing
. . . and to last through winter 2009-10." Yes indeed.
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