ANN BAILEY: Common sense is often missing from long-range weather forecastsThe only thing I know for certain is that no one can say for certain what the weather down the road will be like. Warm, cold, wet or dry, we’ll have to deal with whatever it is when the time comes.
This past summer, my family, like many others who live on North Dakota and Minnesota farms, spent a lot of time contending with water-related problems. Years of excessive rains and a wet spring saturated the soil and raised the groundwater depth to record levels.
We skirted wet spots in the yard when we were mowing the lawns, swatted mosquitoes that hatched in the field ponds and pumped water out of the basement for months.
In fact, it was late October before the sump pump stopped running. And though the field ponds surrounding our farmstead finally dried up in early November, the ground still was too wet for our neighbor to cultivate it.
Meanwhile, it was almost too wet this fall for the rural water company that was installing a line to my brother’s house, two miles east of our farm, to dig. The trench filled up at a depth of 4 feet.
Given the water situation in our neighborhood and in a lot of other areas of areas of northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, I can’t get too excited about the fact that the U.S. Drought Monitor Index, a partnership made up of academic and federal scientists, has put much of North Dakota into a low-stage drought. Nor am I concerned that a meteorologist recently said that we may be at significant risk of drought conditions if the La Nina cycle continues.
Really? If this is low-stage drought, then I shudder to think about how a wet cycle is defined. Maybe when we have to build the ark?
I have respect for scientists and people who study and monitor the weather and climate conditions, but I think that sometimes common sense doesn’t enter into their observations and predictions.
It seems to me the outlook seems to go from extreme to the other, just like the weather. For example, not more than a couple of months ago, some meteorologists were warning us that we could have severe spring flooding in 2012 if the snowfall this winter is heavy. Now, another expert is telling us that we could be in a drought cycle if La Nina continues.
The common theme of the forecasts, of course, is the word “if.” When that hedge is made you can predict just about anything. If it warms up to 90 degrees in January we could have a tornado in the middle of the winter. Or if the temperatures drop to 10 degrees in July, it could freeze all of the crops and there wouldn’t be a harvest.
Another thing I’ve observed about weather observers is that sometimes they like to make the weather forecasts be as bad as they possibly can. A forecaster that recently was quoted, for example, said that this likely will be an exceptionally cold winter.
Is that colder than the balmy minus-30 and minus-40 degree temperatures that we see fairly frequently in North Dakota and Minnesota?
The only thing I know for certain is that no one can say for certain what the weather down the road will be like. Warm, cold, wet or dry, we’ll have to deal with whatever it is when the time comes.
For now, I’m enjoying the warm, dry December that has yielded us, easily navigable, snow-free roads, a lower heating bill and reduced potential for spring flooding — no ifs, ands or buts about it.