Get Used To Weird Weather

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According to Evelyn Browning-Garriss, we should all get used to the strange weather.

Garriss is the editor of the Browning Newsletter and studies historical weather patterns. She spoke at the Joint Stockmen's Convention in Albuquerque on Friday. Garriss lives in the East Mountains, but is asked to attend speaking engagements all over the world.

Although she did talk about the changes in the weather caused by people, she stuck mostly to discussing the changes that have been brought on by nature. For over 100 years, the world has been in a cycle of natural warming, she said. It's something that predates man-made causes of global warming.

"Any man-made warming is on top of that," she said.

The evidence of those changes in the global climate are found in tree rings, core samples of arctic ice and other physical data, she said. They even look up Scandinavian fishing records to find historical warming or cooling of their ocean temperatures.

"The Scandinavians like their fish," she said. "When you see the Scandinavian records swearing about no herring, you know it is in a cooling phase."

She also mentioned records of some waters closer to home that indicate cyclical climate change and wetter weather in the southwest in the 1400s.

"We used to have oxen going across the frozen Rio Grande," she said.

To explain a few more recent weather patterns, she said there are cyclical changes going on in the Pacific Ocean. Add in volcanos going off in Alaska and northern Russia, and you've got a recipe for odd weather.

According to Garriss, the weather has been especially strange for the last six years or so. And the odd weather is likely to continue. It's what she called the "new normal."

"We have reached a tipping point," she said.

Indications of that "new normal" are recent Hurricane Sandy, or "Frankenstorm," weighing in as the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane on record, at one time measuring 945 miles across, while a few states away, the country's food production areas are experiencing extreme drought conditions.

And the new weather patterns likely mean less moisture for New Mexico, too.

Garriss said one of the major causes for changes in the weather is a 15- to 30-year cyclical change in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO. It is set to bring more warm, dry winters to New Mexico, she said.

"The Southwest United States tend to be the losers. I'm sorry," she said.

Meanwhile, weather from the opposite coast is being influenced by an unusually warm Atlantic Ocean.

Those and other indicators have helped contribute to what Garriss called "winter whiplash" in New Mexico.

She said we recently had an unusually rapid switch in weather coming from the Gulf Coast region, where there were a couple of years of the dry La Nina weather followed quickly by warm weather patterns from the south.

The weather was similar to, but not quite, El Niño conditions, which have a very specific definition. Although those kinds of El Niño conditions usually bring us wet weather, the state hasn't gotten much help so far.

But there could be a true El Niño brewing, Garriss said. And that should bring a deluge of significant moisture.

"If that El Niño gets strong, New Mexico gets to get out their skis," she said.

But rather than paint an overly-cheerful outlook, Garriss said that generally the new weather patterns mean we can expect a continuing pattern of droughts, and for the dry spells to last for months or years at a time.

Digging into economic records during similar times with strange weather, she said that over time people learn to roll with the punches.

"It takes about 10 years to adjust to the 'new normal,'" she said.

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