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Turns out, El Nino's just wind

January 08, 1998

Turns out, El Nino's just wind

So this is El Nino.

This is that big bad weather system that will flood your basements, cave in your porch roofs with snow, fry eggs on the pavement, huff and puff and blow your house in, freeze your pipes and keep the Republicans from winning the White House.

El Nino. The reason farmers must build fires under their cows to thaw out the milk and give ice water to the chickens so they don't lay hard-boiled eggs.

As I sit here writing on Jan. 6, it's 63 degrees and hazy. Some tropical fury. El Nino es el wieno.

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See if you understand this, written by an actual scientician:

"El Nino is part of a cyclical process made up of two parts called ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation). The Southern Oscillation can be described in two phases. In an El Nino year, high pressure sets up across the western Pacific while low pressure develops in the East. The easterly trade winds weaken and warm waters are pushed from west to east. A pressure difference is noted between Darwin, Australia, and the South Pacific island of Tahiti. This pressure difference is known as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). When the pressure at Darwin is subtracted from the pressure at Tahiti and the value is negative, it is an indication of El Nino."

Got it? No, me neither. I thought an Oscillation Index was the number of leopards that have been placed on the endangered species list.

Here are the crucial questions that I want to know, and the answers as provided by experts:

Q. How much snow will we get this winter?

A. Either more snow or less snow or the same amount of snow, depending.

Q. Will this year be hotter and dryer or wetter and cooler than normal?

A. Well, it depends. If you live in the South, it will be hotter and wetter except for the northern part of the South, where it well be cooler and dryer; however on the western side of the Southeast - but north of the Midwest - it will be hotter and dryer, although indications are on the northwest edge of the western part of the southeastern half of the East notwithstanding the midsouthern section of the North it will be dryer and wetter.

They say this El Nino event (It's no longer simply El Nino, it's an El Nino event) is so strong it will eclipse even the strongest of recent El Nino events, which occurred back in '82. And you remember what happened then.

But to me, El Nino is a way of assigning blame for what's past, not for predicting what's coming. It's amazing how some waterspout off the coast of Peru can directly correlate to the number of people in Hagerstown who thunder down upon the supermarkets for bread and milk every time it clouds up.

Not that I don't have great sympathy for the fate of the plankton in Ecuador, but I'm a pretty day-to-day guy. They have their troubles, I have mine. And I don't care how many bushels of them are washing feelers-up on shore due to the warm water, if it's not raining in Washington County I am NOT going to carry an umbrella. That's just the way it is.

Of course there are people who prepare scrupulously for the unseen, and they are the ones I fear for. Yes, I think we all want, nay, need, to know: What are the implications of El Nino for the cloud seeders?

As we speak, are they reinforcing their wings, souping up their engines and adding extra space in the cargo bay for their - uh, seeds?

Or do they get the summer off? Let El Nino do all the heavy lifting.

Either way, I bet they're prepared. If there's one thing I've learned about Washington County, it's that an event has to get up pretty early in the morning to fool the cloud seeders.

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