El Nino, Knocking the Nozzle off Mother Nature’s Hose


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The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Looking at the most recently released edition, it’s easy to see that our region is faring better than much of the country.  Does that signal a disaster on the horizon?  Do the colors on this map shift like a storm pattern?  Or do they appear and dissipate in a single area?  To get the answers, Haylie Shipp went to Matt Bunkers with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota.
“Drought can be quite variable depending upon what part of the country you’re in,” said Bunkers.  He explained that in the central part of the United States, having long stretches of drought has been historically common.  However, when it comes to the coast, droughts tend to be more quickly lived.
Obviously linked to the weather patterns, a drought can shift from area to area.  Variable in nature in this regard as well, the disaster could also appear and dissipate without substantially moving its geographic bounds.
As for current soil moisture conditions, Bunkers agreed with our perceived good fortune.  “We’re doing pretty decent right now,” said Bunkers, “and that is largely a result of the wet year that we had in 2014 going into the fall.”  He explained that we typically don’t average a lot of precipitation over the winter, so that isn’t too much of a current consideration.  Spring moisture is.
Over the last six months, Bunker says that they’ve been talking about El Nino conditions.  Put simply, this is a term linked to warm waters in the central Pacific.  He explained that these warm waters can impact the jet stream and, hence, the moisture pattern.  According to Bunker, there is some evidence of an El Nino pattern developing this spring/summer.  “If that happens,” Bunker told Shipp, “that could break some of the droughtiness in the West and possibly even bring some moisture up across the High Plains into the summer period.”  That potential is something that Bunker says they’ll continue to watch in the coming weeks and months.


CLICK HERE to check out the current US Drought Monitor reported conditions



© Haylie Shipp 2015 

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