Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer 2014 Outlook

A New Regime?

Our regional weather dramatically shifted in summer 2013 into a mild cool pattern that rained buckets.  Fall descended into Winter by the end of October.  Around Thanksgiving was our first foray into the teens, destroying my salad garden.  December - February was a roller coaster that averaged slightly below normal yet featured epic cold that we have not seen in 20 years.  The spring that followed was the coldest in history in many locales.  I had never seen so many episodes of snow and ice in March even growing up in VA!

Think back to the summers of 2007-12 when enbelieveable heat ruled the roost.  3 of 5 Winters were non-existent as well.   The reason for warmth domination was a warm NW Atlantic that concentrated heat along the Eastern Seaboard and wrecked all but 2 of the Winters.   Incidentally, the mega winters of 2009-10 and 10-11 were owed to energy being dissipated into space in the Arctic thereby tanking the Arctic Oscilation to unheard of depths.  Unfortunately, heat flooded the mid-latitudes the following summers.

Now, the Great Lakes still have ice in it, now Meterological summer has begun and lows are in the 50 's!  The big question is, what does the rest of the summer hold?  Are we truly in a new weather pattern or will the ways of the late 2000's return?  How about Hurricanes?  Except for Irene, NC has enjoyed a respite.

Summer points to ponder.

To El Nino or La Nada ?

El Nino has certainly gotten in the news. Some in the scientific community along with the media ran a hype machine that touted the expectant El Nino as becoming a El Toro.   However, the ELEPHANT in the room seems to be an empty hope for 1997-98 like warming instead of a truly scientific search for what is really going on.

The ocean temperatures seem to clearly indicate an attempt to generate an El Nino as all 4 zones have gone warm.  Take note of the dual feed of warmer than average water aimed at the Central Pacific while cold is squeezing the warmth in the east.  That alignment makes Winter's crystal ball turn white...

Image from Plymouth State Weather Center.

Some might point out the warm expanse across the region must mean that a strong El Nino is coming.  Take note of the source region of the warmth in 1997 in the EAST, not Central like this one is headed. Also note the cool Gulf of Alaska that served as a harbringer of the mild winter that swept much of the country.

Image from Wikipedia

IF El Nino was going to be strong then we would also be looking at persistent negative SOI.  That measure is used as a tool to determine the trend of the atmosphere.  Will it fight the warm water and squash the oscillation  2006 style?  Or will it eventually line up to deliver its weatger effects downstream into North America.   This graph uses data from The Long Paddock to illustrate what has occurred since Jan 1. 

Persistent negatives indicate an El Nino.  Note the descent that reversed in April, hit a quick low in May and now back in positive territory.  The sloshing back and forth is indicative of a Central and West Pacific based El Nino.  This final piece of evidence is very important.

Summer Weather Pattern and Temperatures

Ocean temperature and existing drought are often great predictors in our region of how the summer will play out.  Phenomena like El Nino and La Nina are capable of ruling the roost when strong and persistent enough but both are more influential in the winter when weaker.

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The back and forth of weather virtually guarantees somebody is going to be hot/dry, another cool/wet, and often a mild region.   This drought map sends a loud and clear message about who will stay hot and dry, the Western US.  Due to ridging out West and over TX, it leaves us east of the Mississippi in the trough zone (on average).

The message of the Ocean has a sinister side to it.  A cooling North Atlantic does not promote large numbers of hurricanes nor persistent Bermuda Highs.  Sound good?  YEAH!!!  BTW:  I think that we in NC and VA are in the mild zone.  That being written ... warm water close to the East Coast loves hurricanes. This image is provided by the Plymouth State Weather Center.

An El Nino usually squashes Hurricane Season.  As previously discussed and ilustrated, this event is NOT strong and being west based tends to sway back and forth in terms of influence.  In my opinion, the door will be open for Hurricane development that would otherwise not be there in 1997-98 East based El Nino's.   An argument can be made any year for NC vulnerability.  The warmth close to the coast is double jeopardy  due to risk of Hurricane Fran-like strengthening upon approach to land. 

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1) Central NC and VA will be cooler than average by 1-2 degrees.

2) The back and forth nature of the growing west based El Nino should yield a period of upper 90's that would likely be provided by a cool High that overstayed its welcome.

3) Historically, coastal warm water brings bad news. In addition, TX ridging and a cool Gulf of Mexico lead me towards favoring the activity that is near or hits land to shift to the Eastern Seaboard.

4) I am having a hard time seeing next winter because the Crystal Ball keeps getting covered in frost and white inside. ..

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