Evelyn Browning Garriss is a historical climatologist. She lives in Texas and provides meteorological consulting for ranches and farms as well as petroleum and utility companies. Her five books on the impact of changing climate keep her active on the speaking tour. She came to Ohio for the Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium in Wilmington.
Garriss says we are entering a period like the 1950s. "You cannot take water for granted during these periods. We are shifting to a time when water will need to be treated like a precious commodity."
Garriss contends we are nearing the end of a 50-year climate cycle. She notes that all three of the oceans that surround North America, the Pacific, the Atlantic and Arctic have currents that are warmer than normal.
"We are coming to the end of a little ice age," she said.
However, the three big things impacting the weather in the short run are: the interrupted growth of a weak El Nino in the tropical Pacific, volcanic debris from last year's eruptions of Mt. Grimsvotn in Iceland and Mt. Sheveluch in Russia and the unusually hot water in the Atlantic Ocean.
While we worry about man-made air pollution from carbon dioxide, the ash and soot from a volcano have far greater impact on the atmosphere, she says. Together the volcanoes have blown 35 cubic miles of materials into the air 75 miles above the earth, she says. The sheer volume of materials has actually altered the normal wind patterns redirecting weaker arctic winds further south, she says.
The debris can linger for linger for weeks and years. The last time we had volcanoes of this magnitude was in 1783-84, she says. "Last winter circumpolar winds blew around the North Pole so strongly they trapped all the cold polar air north. This gave us a very warm winter. This year the circumpolar winds are weaker and we will see the cold air hit the U.S."
Furthermore, the Gulf Stream along the East Coast in the Atlantic is flowing faster and carrying more warm water north, she says. That means more active hurricane season and colder winters for the Midwest and Great Lakes. However, in the summers the warmer waters can mean "flash drought" in the East and Midwest.
Two years of cool La Nina in the Pacific were responsible for the drought conditions in the Southwest. However those conditions have changed to a warm El Nino. If it continues the chances for a stormier winter here in the Midwest increase.
The risk for continued drought in the West and Great Plains gains ground because a rotational movement of water in the Pacific (the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) has entered a cool phase. This will alter rain and snowfall patterns around the world and bring dryness to western North America.
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