“Such vast quantities of water … held suspended in the air in clouds so light, fragile and evanescent … How is the water-dust suspended in the atmosphere? … Sometimes we see a dense heavy mist lying so thickly over the fields that it seems as if nothing could dissipate it, yet it is so thin and frail that the sun rapidly melts it away. At other times we look on colossal mountains of cloud, and see the sunlight beating on them all day long; yet they resist him victoriously, and shine in more wonderful splendour when he sinks below the horizon, and then they mysteriously steal away, and bright stars shine serenely where they stood.”
~ Alfred Rowland, “The Clouds: God’s Angels of the Sea,”
The Sunday Magazine (London), 1884
The predicted rain with warnings of possible flooding in the beginning failed to materialize. Oh well; at least there was a brief respite from the heat. But, according to experts, a change may be in the wind. Over the next several months, according to climatologists, a 95% chance for a healthy El Niño is is in place; its major impact on our weather would be above average rainfall.
Concerning last week’s topic, I became sidetracked (or ran out of space!). There remains one component of El Niño in which Bill Patzert – my go-to weather guy and JPL climatologist – is keeping close watch on: the trade winds. And so I continue …
The very thought of trade winds evokes visions of tropical islands – swaying coconut palms and clear warm turquoise waters. In actuality, trade winds (known as easterlies) are a consistent weather pattern blowing from east to west along Earth’s equator. For hundreds of years mariners of large sailing vessels were dependent upon their force. With canvas sails hoisted in place, a strong trade wind could rapidly blow them westward. Global commerce and trade were influenced by the seasonal ebbing and flowing of the trade winds. Like sailors (and pirates), El Niño requires their gusty assistance to reach potential.
Off the coast of South America, the ocean waters are typically cold due to the trade winds blowing to the west. Every two to seven years, an El Niño changes the pattern. The winds begin to weaken or even reverse direction, pushing warm tropical waters into the region. Ocean temperatures are elevated by five to 10 degrees. So far, the winds are favorable for a healthy wet El Niño.
Autumn has arrived with summer’s lingering heat. Temperatures are predicted to reach 100 degrees this week and into next.
Without a drop of rain predicted in the near forecast, my umbrella is faithfully awaiting a call to action!
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.