WILMOT, Ohio – Weather, everybody talks about it, everybody thinks they understand it, but nobody can ever do anything about it.
And according to James Newman, a consulting climatologist, a lot of what people have been saying about it the last few years hasn’t even been right.
After the erratic cycle of El Nino and La Nina, Newman told producers attending the Ohio State University Regional Agronomy School in Wilmot recently, this year things are starting to return to normal.
“Last year, there was a lot of propaganda that we would be having a drought this year,” Newman said. “If you look at the situation last year, two thirds of the country was under some type of drought condition.”
Newman added that these dry conditions primarily affected the water levels.
“After the spring planting season, we were no longer in an agricultural drought,” he said. “Agricultural droughts can be over in six weeks if you have a good rainfall, but we were still in a hydrological drought.”
Newman said that over the years, researchers have developed a keen interest in climatology and weather forecasting.
He explained that the difference between climate and weather is that climate forecasts look at the weather on a global basis, while weather forecasts take a local view.
One of the questions researchers are studying is whether the climate is really changing and if so, are the changes caused by man-made pollution.
Newman said that the climate changes constantly, from one season to another and year to year.
“The only thing that we are doing is speeding up the variation,” he noted.
“We really haven’t been able to divide the natural deviations in the weather from the man made deviations in the weather. But we think that natural variations in the weather have more of an impact than the impact from pollution.”
“The climate varies by decade and every decade has been different. With the exception of the 1930s, the 1990s were the warmest decade of this century.”
He said he didn’t think the decade just beginning will be as warm as the 1990s, but that he did expect there to be more moisture.
During the 1990s, he said, there were three El Nino cycles.
During the last El Nino cycle, precipitation was off about one third, while the average temperature was about two degrees higher than normal.
On the other hand, La Nina, which ended its cycle in mid June, brought cooler temperatures and higher precipitation levels.
As these cycles move on, he said, a system known as the North Atlantic or Arctic Oscillation is occurring in the higher latitudes of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, and will impacts the winter and early spring seasons across North America and Europe.
“When we enter a neutral period, such as we are in now,” Newman said, “the Arctic Oscillation spills over and knocks the arctic air lose, giving us colder winters.”
He think this winter will be colder and snowier, but by spring, temperatures and moisture will be about normal. By summer, temperatures will be a little warmer in the south, but cooler in the corn belt.”