Egad! It’s El Niño

A Morning Call story this week states that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting lots of snow and cold this winter across much of the northeast.

Meteorologists, on the other hand, are calling that prediction a bunch of hot air.

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What’s an El Niño? NOAA says the term “refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.”

Instead, they say, the El Niño that’s affecting our weather has all the appearances of being the strongest in 50 years — meaning that the Pacific states will get a lot of rain, and the Atlantic states will get a mild winter.

A story in The Washington Post  quotes atmospheric sciences professor Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia saying, “[Weather forecasting] is a rigorous and quantitative science steeped in physics, advanced math, fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics.”

So what can we expect? According to scientists at The National Weather Service, it’s more likely that we’ll get “Below normal winter precipitation and snowfall.” Furthermore, a drier, warmer winter “could adversely impact some agricultural operations. Specifically, winter wheat yields the following summer could be reduced due to deficient moisture and possible cold damage because of the absence of an insulating snow cover. In fact, the incipient stages of some Ohio Valley and lower Great Lakes droughts may be initiated during a dry El Niño winter.”

Yes, they said the D-word: Droughts.

While it’s too early to predict with certainty what’s going to happen this winter — the scientists are injecting their report with a healthy dose of what we’ll call the “maybes” — farmer’s almanacs don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to weather. As the Washington Post reporter points out,  “for the current period, spanning August 16 to 19 … the Old Farmer’s Almanac says we’ll have ‘Rain, then sunny, cool,’ …. Of course, it is hot with no rain in the forecast until the end of this period, the opposite of the Almanac’s outlook. (It also forecast for August 10-11 a “tropical storm threat, mainly southeast”. Nope!)”

Our advice? Keep your eyes on the weather, buy some driveway salt just in case, and keep your fingers crossed. Oh, and conserve water — because that’s a good idea no matter what the weather.