2010: An ‘unusual’ year

Weather watchers have been waiting for climatologists, particularly Bill Patzert of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to eat crow. Since late summer, equatorial Pacific currents have led climatologists to believe that a record La Niña weather pattern will aggravate drought in the American Southwest. Patzert led the pack with warnings. Then rain across Southern California was early and steadily mounted, with December preliminary totals so heavy that Patzert is quoted in the Los Angeles Times tonight saying, “I think we’re going to crush the record for December.”

Whether one receives this as good news, or merely weird news, depends on how one takes a year that, as the Times report sketches, has bucked every notionally normal trend in Southern California. Traditionally hot summer months have been cool, a normally cooling autumnal stretch produced record heat, treacherous Santa Ana winds have been decorous and now what experts agreed would be a dry

“You’d better put your money on conservation”

THE PREDICTION this month of an El Nino weather system capable of bringing much needed rain and snowpack to California reminds Bill Patzert of another time that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast an El Nino. That was September 13, 2006 (announcement art, left). “That was the driest winter in the historical record with 3.21 inches,” said Patzert.

As a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Patzert is part of the team of scientists contributing to El Nino forecasting for NOAA. However he has become a well known dissenter, calling previous El Ninos forecast by the administration “El No Show” and “El Wimpo.” Nothing he sees this year encourages him to believe that we’re in for anything like the rainfall of the classic El Nino years of 1997-98 (31.01 inches in Los Angeles) or 2004-05 (37.96 inches).

“I’d love to be wrong. At this point it