Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Wet or dry this winter? So far, there’s no clue in the ocean

Making a bet about a wet or dry winter this year? Don’t look for El Nino or La Nina to give you an edge. It’s looking like La Nada so far.

San Luis Reservoir has been low this year due to drought and pumping restrictions in the delta;

If you don’t know, El Nino and La Nina are all about the shallow water temperature in the Pacific Ocean around the equator. Nino means warmer than usual — an indication California might have a wet winter. Nina means cooler — a hint that it might be dry.

After two arid winters years and the long, dry summer of 2013, I hear from a lot farmers, city leaders and business folk who want some idea about the winter to come.

But the Pacific isn’t giving anyone a clue this year. Scientists say it is neither warm nor cool. Which means it’s just a coin flip so far, unless things change soon.

I like to follow Jan Null’s web site about the phenomenon.  Null is a private meteorologist in the Bay Area, and you can learn a lot from his page.

Meanwhile, all bets are off when the ocean is in neutral. Will it stay in neutral? NOAA says it looks like neutral conditions will remain for the 2013-2014 winter.

Fresno was not warmest city in nation from January to July

Someone mentioned a story about Fresno being the hottest place in the country between January and July, according to NOAA.

But read the NOAA web site closely. That’s not at all what the federal government is saying.

Fresno is in bright red with the word “warmest” under the January-to-July ranking. It just means this is the warmest January-to-July ranking for Fresno in the last 66 years.

There are much warmer cities in the United States. Click the up-and-down button on the 2013 ranking. You’ll see there were about 25 other cities that were warmer.

Even so, it’s a pretty interesting statistic for Fresno.

But there is one unanswered question I have about this climate ranking. Why does NOAA look at only 66 years of record?

Fresno’s records go back more than a century. I’ve seen National Weather Service statistics on warm months that included months from 1906.

There are plausible reasons — perhaps the monitoring station was moved to its present site 66 years ago. NOAA hints at that by saying these are long-term monitoring stations.

Winter roars back, but maybe not for long

The Yosemite Conservancy’s startling web cam shot of Half Dome this morning told me winter had returned.

But the National Weather Service told me not to count on a wet February.

“I expect another extended dry (temperatures cool to near normal) pattern to set in for the next one to two weeks,” meteorologist Paul Iniguez in the NWS Hanford office.

He said his forecast is in line with the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, which says odds favor a drier than average spring. Iniguez said precipitation for California is below normal.

Ouch.

For those who follow this stuff, check out NOAA’s El Nino-La Nina discussion. El Nino is the warm water phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, sometimes meaning California will be wet. La Nina, corresponding to cooler water, can mean drier, cooler winters here.

Unfortunately, the Pacific is neither Nino, nor Nina this year. It’s tougher to handicap the wet season when neither is present in the ocean.