Friday, February 02, 2007

Why the weather forecasters should have gotten this right.

I've never been a big fan of criticizing by looking in the rear-view mirror. Nature is unpredictable. People like to complain that the "powers that be" should have known something about whatever crises arises, but when you really think about it, what they suggest is humanly impossible. This is not one of those cases. Let me tell you why.

I've made no secret of how the weather has been driving me crazy. Just search this blog for the word "rain".

Coincidentally last week my husband were watching a Discovery Channel series "Most Deadly", this episode covered the 1974 Tornado which hit Xenia Ohio. Yes.. I know it seems like we watch the Discovery Channel a bunch, but I don't want to be mocked by telling everyone the rubbish I normally watch. Normally tornados would not be in our viewing rotation, but my husband grew up in Ohio. He didn't live in the Xenia area - but as a child he was very affected by it because it was a really massively huge event.

It turned out it was actually a pretty interesting episode, but even more startling was the conversation my husband and I had about it. You see - as a child we both remembered a period where it seemed like there were a lot of tornados. It seemed like the whole 1970's had tornados. At one point I even said "you know this weather reminds me of the droughts of 1976 - I wonder if we will enter a period with more tornados".

By this time I had already decided to change my attitude about this dry spell by gambling on the weather, because this dry pattern so deeply reminded my of my childhood. I talk about it here. Even though I was a very young child at the time - this period always stood out to me. It was a time of gas rations, and water rations. Being from a poor family these things were a pretty big deal.. but in the 70's those things were a pretty big deal to everyone. I remember it seeming like it would never rain. Well.. like now.

Because I was investing in water stocks I set out to look at this year's rainfall tallies to see if we could really catch up at this point. Out of curiosity I wanted see what the rainfall patterns for 1970's were because every time I watch the news they say it is the driest year since 1976.

This is what I found. Some of our most severe droughts occurred in La Nina years. I have been hearing all year that this is an El Nino year. A La Nina year however creates this weather pattern.

From Wikipedia.

You know what this weather pattern creates? Tornados.

Now...I fully admit, I am just armchair quarter-backing, and trying to see if I can actually make some money. But it has so been bothering me that meteorologists in my area just Friday started thinking we might have an issue. And they have been spending their whole f-ing careers watching the weather.

After doing less than a days worth of research I found this document dated in 1998 that talks about cold ENSO winters (under section 5 - DRY EVENTs) and provides me with this image. It also talks about 1974 - the year of the Xenia tornados - being one of those event years.

Fig. 7. (a). Click on Fig. 6. (a) which will display Fig. 7. (a)

It looks very similar to the current conditions:


At this point to me it seems obvious that we are screwed water-wise for the year. But it also just seems like this dry - cold pattern might make some of the meteorologists notice and say something. It certainly made me notice.

Weather changes.. we all understand that - but I guess I had grown to think with experience and advanced Doppler Radar, the weather service could have given more notice to those people in Florida. Even just to say "this is a really dangerous pattern". Most of the time I admit you just don't know things are going to happen until they happen. But this time I don't think they get to use that excuse.. they just failed the public- plain and simple.

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