Winter Forecast: Terrifying Weather!
NetNet Writer, Special to CNBC.com
This winter is going to be brutal—perhaps the worst in a century.
This news comes to us from AccuWeather Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi.
According to the article, "This winter is on track to become the coldest for the nation as a whole since the 1980s or possibly even the late 1910s." The article goes on to say that "Bastardi adds that with the U.S. in the middle of one of its worst recessions in its history," and that "he is extremely concerned about the prospect for more persistent cold weather in the coming years putting increased financial hardship on Americans."
Consistently terrible weather, of course, is bad for the economy.
As the article points out, there are the implications of increased demand for fuel related to heating demand. Also, the risk that cold and inclement weather has the ability to suppress retail numbers by dampening turnout at stores. There are even impacts to crop prices to be accounted for if the cold trends last into spring and summer.
The article goes on to cite the science behind the trend:
"La Niña occurs when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal. La Niña and its counterpart, El Niño, which occurs when sea surface temperatures of the same region are above normal, have a large influence on the weather patterns that set up across the globe.
Also, to make predictions about longer term climatologic cycles—global warming not withstanding:
"Bastardi thinks that not only will the next few winters be colder than normal for much of the U.S., but that the long-term climate will turn colder over the next 20 to 30 years. 'What's interesting about what we're seeing here is that [the current La Niña] is starting so cold,' said Bastardi, "and it's coinciding with bigger things that are pushing the overall weather patterns and climate in the Northern Hemisphere and, in fact, globally over the next 20 to 30 years that we have not really dealt with, nor can we really quantify.'"
From there, it gets more technical. Here's an example of a lot of stuff I really don't understand at all:
"Bastardi has pointed out that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which is a pattern of Pacific climate variability that shifts phases usually about every 20 to 30 years, has shifted into a 'cold' or 'negative' phase. Over the past 30 years or so, according to Bastardi, the PDO has been 'warm' or 'positive.' This change to a cold PDO over the next 20 to 30 years, he says, will cause La Niñas to be stronger and longer than El Niños. Bastardi adds that when El Niños do kick in, if they try to come on strong like they did last year, they will get 'beaten back' pretty quickly."
In the interest of full disclosure I must confess: The juvenile component of my personality finds the entire premise a little absurd. As a consumer of weather forecasts, it seems that meteorologists are wrong half the time about whether or not it's going to rain over the weekend. How on earth such complex phenomena can be predicted months—even decades— in advance is a complete mystery to me.
I would be the first to admit that I don't understand the science—and I'm sure that Joe Bastardi is a lot smarter than I am.
He must be: After all, he's figured out a way to get paid for predicting the temperature—thirty years in advance.
Postscript: While we're on the subject of meteorological phrenology: This morning, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Punxsy Phil has failed to see his shadow—meaning Spring is on the way. Maybe.
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