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Beefs and Beliefs

Promises Of El Nino Rains In Cattle Country Are Fading

Promises Of El Nino Rains In Cattle Country Are Fading
Forecasters push El Nino event further into the future and cow country is looking awfully dry.


About a month ago I mentioned meteorologist Art Douglas's discussion of El Nino forecasts for this spring and summer with a somewhat upbeat tone.

Come to think of it I mentioned a similar prediction a year or so ago, too.

Seems the long-term weather forecasters, even with the help of their friend the ENSO cycle, can't get the forecast much closer than the daily forecasters at the National Weather Service regularly don't.

Just a few days ago the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center issued an "El Nino Watch," which said there is at least a 50% chance of seeing an El Nino develop in the equatorial pacific -- but not until summer. Here is the gist of that report:

Ouch dry: Most of cattle country remains mired in drought or very dry conditions as spring approaches.

"While all models predict warming in the tropical Pacific, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether El Nino will develop during the summer or fall. If westerly winds continue to emerge in the western equatorial Pacific, the development of El Nino would become more likely.

"However, the lower forecast skill during the spring and overall propensity for cooler conditions over the last decade still justify significant probabilities for ENSO-neutral. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Nino developing during the summer or fall."

For those of you who remember the last two years and the rainfall or lack thereof, particularly in the western parts of the Southern Plains, ENSO-neutral is the stage we've been in.

Oklahoma State Climatologist Gary McManus says the forecast means by the July-September timeframe, the probability for El Nino finally overtakes the odds for neutral conditions and even strengthens through the October-December season.

McManus adds that "normally" implies the Southern Plains won't feel the impacts of such an El Nino move until we get into late fall and winter, perhaps into early spring.

He says all this depends on how strong the El Nino becomes. It's possible a weak El Nino can actually bring drier conditions to the region.

So far this spring most of cow country remains either relatively dry or very dry. My hopes for El Nino rainfall are fading. Only time will tell.

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