Friday, February 5, 2010

All About El Nino / The Weather Rant

Not completely garden related but sort of, right?   The weather is my number one obsession of which I have absolutely no control over.   I love the weather, I hate the weather, and for the past 8 months or so I've been asking myself "What the heck is up with this weather?!"

Since this past summer Charleston and other areas has had extreme weather, seemingly all of the time.  This summer we went 3 months without a inch of rain.  This is in a time period where we usually have strong afternoon thunderstorms, and rain totals are typical 6-7 inches a month, or more.  The temperatures went up in May into the 90s, a full month before they should, and stayed there unfailingly until Oct 1.   It was brutal: for humans, plants, dogs, cats you name it.

Then this December came and according to my rain meter, we got 17 inches of rain.  This in a month where we normally get 2.  January, we got 8 inches (also vs 2), and so far in the new month of February we have had an inch with a storm brewing in the sky as we speak.  The city of Charleston has been flooded nearly every third day.    The temperatures here have been on average 10 degrees below normal (as of today this area should regularly be seeing highs in the  low 60s, but nope), and in January the southern sea-board saw 13 straight days of freezing temperatures, most of which were below 26 here.  Again normally we see about 1 day a year that is considered a hard freeze...and maybe a few more right around 32.

What the heck!?  Is this global warming and I can expect insane weather for the rest of my life?  Say nay to tropical plants forever?

Fear not, it isn't.  Or maybe it is, but it is mostly the effects of a strong El Nino weather system.   In a lot of the USA it isn't that noticeable until winter, then smack: i.e.  Virginia has had 3 major snowstorms as of today, and a few minor ones.... they sometimes go years without a dusting of snow.

So what is El Nino, and how is it affecting us so drastically?   I find this part amazing: El Nino is a slight changing of the temperature of the water in the South Pacific.  Thats it.    Looking back at the ocean temperatures from the last major El Nino (97-98) you can see what I mean here. That white stuff shouldn't be there:

That 4 degree (on average) rise in temperatures off the coast of Indonesia is thought to affect weather worldwide.   Its basically like a zillion bathtubs all with hot water in them steaming up all the air out there in the ocean.  The steamy air needs someplace to go - so it comes here. Okay, technically it comes to Peru first, which is how it got its name.   This current El Nino was considered official in July 09, and they usually last about 12 months.   And here is NOAAs predicted weather patterns as of October 09:

Hmmm.  Despite my suspicion that all weather people are just paid models waving their hands in front of a blue screen, maybe they do know what they are talking about after all.

So everyone, in general we can blame El Nino, the little son of Mother Nature for all this weather craziness.     But don't be too hard on him, he was also, after all, responsible for the fact that the Eastern coastline didn't see a single hurricane all season long.   And for that, I guess I can take a few more inches of rain, and keep my begonias in a few more weeks.

Crap...its raining.


  1. aloha jess,

    so all the rain has gone to SC, we need some here in hawaii where its usually the rainy season and we have had almost a month of little or no rain and the land is parched and we are starting to ration water which is typically unheard of...i did a rainy day post on my hawaii blog...more of a rain dance hope...its really sad my tropicals are very wilty :( nice post and very comprehensive

  2. The weather just seems to be so crazy. Thanks for taking the info and breaking it down so that my tired brain can understand it lol. I've always gotten the gist of El Nino, but never really looked deeper into it. With us this year it's just been constant rain. Which is better than the drought of the last 3 years I guess.

  3. Highly entertaining and informative post, Jess. And welcome to the wonderful world of garden blogging. I found you because of Jean who accepted a challenge I put up on my blog, and I'll be back to read again!

  4. Wow, a very interesting post! I'm visiting via jodi, via Jean :) Michigan has been blessed by a mild winter so far ... but ... winter is far from over!

  5. Hi Jess - Thanks for visiting my site - nice to know a new gardening friend. I'm in Philadelphia and spent the morning shoveling 2 feet of snow off my sidewalk - and we had just as much in December. Crazy stuff. Kelly

  6. Hi Jess, Thanks for visiting me today. We also will have a long stretch until Winter is over. But, it's getting closer - day by day. ;-)