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Weather Wise - Weather Forecast

published: August 12th 2016
by: Brian Bledsoe

What about La Niña?

Well, she isn't coming on strongly yet. Does that mean it isn't going to happen? No, not yet. Remember, we are in the wet season and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ESNO) cycle usually doesn't like to show us its cards until after August. While we can have a good idea what it will do, the specifics are always harder this time of year.

Current Sea Surface Temperatures Anomalies 

Right now, the current Oceanic Niño Index is at 0.2. This classifies us as "neutral" despite the colder than normal water off the west coast of South America. The whole Pacific Basin is "more warm" than not, and this kept the June Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) Index at 2.03. The Atlantic Basin is also warm, keeping the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) Index 0.423 for June. That means that as of right now, we are dealing with neutral ENSO conditions, a very positive/warm PDO, and a warm/positive AMO.

ENSO Model Ensemble 

Now, compare the Mid-July ENSO Plumes with those that were forecast in May:

The May plumes had us in solid La Niña territory by late summer, with the signal likely to strengthen a bit in the winter. So why the change? I believe the ENSO models may be struggling a bit during the wet season. But, I also believe that the models recognize that we will likely have a very positive/warm PDO for the next several months. Stronger and longer lasting La Niña episodes are often rare when the PDO is this positive/warm. As I lamented above, I believe we will have a better idea where we‘re headed in about a month. So while I am not cancelling the La Niña, I do not think it will be a strong or long lasting event. In fact, I could see our ENSO phase staying pretty neutral or just a bit colder than neutral for the next several months.

Analog comments

I have been looking for analog years to use for an upcoming long range forecast. Given our current conditions, it is has been a very hard task. However, I have come up with a few possibilities: 1942-43, 1959-60, and possibly 1995-96.

Now, 1942-43 offered up a moderate La Niña, 1995-96 a weak La Niña, and 1959-60 kept us ENSO neutral. As of right now, my analogs and subsequent winter snowfall totals would go in this favored order:

* 1959-60 

* 1995-96 

* 1942-43 

Out of those three analogs, only 1995-96 produced a nasty drought for parts of The South...especially bad in Texas.  Otherwise, the other two analogs looked like this precipitation-wise August-May:

The green/blue areas are locations that had above average moisture, while the yellow/orange areas had below average moisture.  While significant and regional drought wasn’t a huge issue in both of the above years, some dryness was certainly noted from Eastern Texas into the Mississippi Valley.

As I mentioned at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, until the PDO flips back to a negative phase, I am not concerned about a huge drought.  However, I would certainly start preparing for when that happens.  That transition should take place during the next year, and I’ll keep you updated on its progress.

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