Fri September 20, 2013
A End-of-Season Wrap-up of the Summer and the Monsoon
Lee Born, KNAU Meteorologist joins Janice Baker in the studio to talk a little bit about some of the weather conditions we’ve been experiencing, and to do a season wrap-up on summer and Monsoon season.
LB: Good Morning, Janice. Lovely outside.
JB: Indeed it is. So how is the end of the season looking for us, as far as monsoons?
LB: Well, it’s definitely feeling like the end of the season, the winds of change are blowing and autumn’s just right around the corner, and it’s certainly feeling like that with the latest breeze kicking in, and most of the monsoon moisture has now moved off to New Mexico, and it’s cooped up down in old Mexico, but it was a fabulous summer out there – second wettest summer in 115 years – a record.
JB: I know – that’s amazing!
LB: In Flagstaff.
JB: I like to try to beat a record.
LB: Yeah! Yeah! I think once we got that close, a lot of people were rootin’ for it, even thought there was a lot of sniveling about, “Oh the rain,” which we needed, when everybody saw we were that close, it would have been nice to beat it, but nonetheless, a gorgeous summer. And one interesting note – the wettest monsoon of all time, which is a little bit of a separate record – it pretty much encompasses summer, but the monsoon season officially goes through September 30th, and back in 1986, that same year we had the wettest summer, we also had the wettest monsoon. And the last couple weeks of the month back in 1986, we received an additional three inches of rain, which put the wettest monsoon of all time at 20.01 inches, and I think that’s a little out of reach for us, as I don’t really see us going from 15 and a half inches and getting another five inches here by the end of the month. But that was also the wettest monsoon - 1986.
JB: So now the talk all over has been this presages a big heavy winter. What do you think, Lee?
LB: Well, you know, I think a lot of the town is *feeling* like it’s going to be a big winter, because it’s just been so wet this summer. The fact is that summer rainfall and winter snowfall are completely uncorrelated. The monsoon is a completely different weather pattern that is driven by the Bermuda high pressure system, and once that goes away, and we start looking at winter, we get back into the westerlies, and we take a look at long-term forecasts for winter, what we look at is the temperatures of the ocean and El Nino and La Nina, and that’s the only thing we have to go by for our forecasts for this winter. And right now, it looks like we are going to remain El Nino-neutral, which means we have equal chances of being wet, dry, or on average. One interesting thing and not that this means anything, but when we had that very wet summer in 1986, the following winter was a good winter, 1986-1987 winter, we did have a big winter with 121 inches of snowfall. But that doesn’t mean that that fortunate thing is going to happen for us now.
JB: And you’re not wishing for that, right?
LB: Oh, I am –
JB: Oh, OK!
LB: I think a lot of us are. You’re new to Flagstaff, and we root for snowfall here in Flagstaff, we need it, we love to play in it, it’s great for our forest health, it’s great for the water tables. I think if the community’s vibe has anything to do with it, cause we’re feelin’ it, then it’s gonna be a good winter.
JB: How difficult does it get to predict and look long-term when you’ve got such drastic differences in what we’ve had?
LB: Well, I think that that’s really part of the Southwest climate is the drastic dry years and wet years, I think that’s been going on since the beginning of time. When you talk about how hard is that to predict – it’s very difficult to predict. Long-term weather predictions is a fairly young science, and people all across the world are still working on their Ph.D.’s trying to figure out how to predict the monsoon. It’s a very difficult thing to forecast as far as long-term. When we talk about winter predictions, it’s gotten a little better, with the El Nino and La Nina predictions, and the atmosphere and ocean interactions and how that impacts our winter precipitations. So that’s gotten quite a bit better, but monsoons still got a ways to go with studying.
JB: Lee Born, KNAU Staff Meteorologist, joining us this morning to give us an overview on how we’re going to end up with our summer and monsoon season. Thanks Lee!
LB: You got it.