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March 31, 2008

Good News for the Southwest--The La Nina that Wasn't

The Arizona Republic has this recap of the 2007-08 winter:

This was supposed to be a dry Arizona winter, deprived of rain and snow by the oceanic weathermaker La Niña.

As sure as it's hot in August, if it's La Niña, it's dry in winter...

How wet was the 2007-08 winter? Pretty wet, though not as wet as 2004-05, the last time reservoirs rose and water flowed down the normally dry lower Salt River.

A few big storms delivered the bulk of the rain and snow in most areas. Four storm systems accounted for nearly all the precipitation recorded in Phoenix and Flagstaff from Nov. 30 through the end of January...

In the high country, the storms pushed snowpack well above normal, as high as 180 percent of the 30-year average in some basins. The San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff remain at 225 percent of normal.

But this is where it gets interesting. Last year, it was an extremely dry El Nino year. This year, it was an extremely wet La Nina.

What happened to La Niña and its warm, dry winter? That's a question meteorologists will puzzle over for a while.

Temperatures in the Pacific Ocean began dropping off near the equator midway through 2007, signaling the onset of La Niña, one of the most reliable predictors of weather in the Southwest.

For months, climate experts forecasted warm, dry winter conditions across Arizona, an outlook that persisted until the first storms hit in early December.

Paul Iñiguez, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Phoenix, said this La Niña was the strongest in 35 years and the fourth-strongest in 132 years of record keeping. Such conditions almost always steer storms north of Arizona, drenching the upper tier of states.

But Iñiguez said the forecasts tripped over unexpected differences elsewhere in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, where pockets of warmer water grew, influencing the storm track in ways uncharacteristic of La Niña.

"This year, the systems had access to more moisture from the south," Iñiguez said, moisture that helped fuel the lower northern storm track and give Arizona a juiced-up winter.

Why all these events converged no one can yet say, but the result was one of Arizona's wettest La Niña winters on record.

So what conclusion should I draw? Climatologists are almost certain what La Nina and El Nino mean for the southwest. Yet, here were are and the results the last two years are exactly the opposite of what the Climatologists predicted.

So they will scurry off for another several months to write papers about how they were actually right if they had taken into account some other phenomenon that suddenly emerged and no one considered and that their models simply need some minor tweak made.

Is it possible that the weather is far more complicated than Climatologists believe it to be? That simple hockey sticks and CO2 cannot alter the entire planet or that ocean temperatures are not the only indicator of a wet winter?

While one wetter than expected winter in Arizona may not be more than a happy coincidence, it does call into questions the simplistic nature of many predictive models that Climatologists have convinced us can accurately predict weather patterns during the winter.

I still believe that the Sun and Sun Spots play more of a role in things than Al Gore wants to let on and far more of a role than all the CO2 we can produce.

Posted by Justin at March 31, 2008 12:11 AM

Comments

Justin,

How dare you question the truth that Saint Gore has brought to us from his mansion on high? People were saying the same thing about Steamboat when we opened a week or so late only to be quickly quieted by 3 consecutive months of 100 plus inch snowfall and cold temps here in Steamboat. That was the first time we have ever recorded such a streak and it has led us to a record season + 33 inches and we are closing 10 days earlier than normal due to the timing of Easter this year. Between opening and mid February it snowed 8 out of 10 days and the conditions were absolutely stupendous.

Our world is a complex one and we can't hope to predict weather or women :)

Posted by: Steamboat at April 1, 2008 11:54 PM