Longer-term El Niño warnings are now possible

Scientists have found a way to forecast El Nino weather events in the Pacific a year in advance, long enough to let farmers plant crops less vulnerable to global shifts in rainfall…

While far from flawless, the technique doubles current six-month predictions of El Nino, a warming of the eastern Pacific linked in the past to floods in Peru and Ecuador, droughts in Australia and Indonesia and maybe severe winters in Europe…

El Ninos typically happen every two to seven years but scientists have been unable to find the causes of patterns that have occurred naturally throughout history and are among the most disruptive of extreme weather events.

The new system, built on a network of temperature records around the Pacific Ocean since 1950, correctly spotted El Nino events a year in advance more than half the time and gave false alarms fewer than one year in 10…

Even though the new computer-based system is not always right, farmers might find it worthwhile to invest in drought- or flood-resistant varieties of crops when there was a risk of an El Nino in a year’s time.

“Six months’ warning is too short. If you are a farmer in India, or in Zimbabwe or Brazil you have bought your seeds or even planted them. If you have a 12- or even 18-month early warning, you have a full agricultural cycle,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber…co-author of the report said…

“We expect more strong El Ninos” overall this century because of rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, lead author Jinbao Li of the University of Hong Kong told Reuters.

I actually know folks in this neck of the prairie who got their graduate degrees on El Niño. Living in high desert, our climate doesn’t need a great deal of change to go from acceptable and enjoyable to hard to take. The extended drought we’re in being the hard to take bit. As you can witness on the nightly news with wildfire reports from the Southwest.

Even more locally, the switch from El Niño to ENSO-neutral to La Niña encourages the jet stream to waver 150-300 miles. And that can be enough to take the moisture coming from the west coast or Baja California up and over New Mexico, north of the Four Corners. We’ve subscribed to NOAA’s monthly updates for years. Looks like we may need to add another source – or bug the Feds to add this new estimating system to their report.

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