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Climatologist uses history to guesstimate 2013 weather

Ohio Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Ohio — Growers in the Midwest who fear the idea of facing another summer drought better brace themselves: One historical climatologist says much of the country will likely face a colder-than-normal winter and drought conditions again in 2013.
“Last summer’s drought was caused by three major factors,” explained Evelyn Browning-Garriss, a historical climatologist who advises everyone from Texas cattle ranchers to Midwest utilities about upcoming weather patterns. She spoke recently to the Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium.

“First, we had two major volcanic eruptions on the globe in 2012. Second, the temperatures of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans played a key role. Finally, the prevailing winds off these oceans carried heat to the breadbaskets of the world.”

Much more than simply a weather predictor, Browning-Garriss has spent more than 30 years as a business consultant, editor and author explaining the impact of changing climate on economic and social trends. She’s a firm believer that weather patterns change every 50 years.

“People always like to blame the person with an aerosol can for putting holes in our ozone, but volcanoes play a big role in determining our climate conditions,” she said. “Whatever man has done to the environment and global warming is small compared to the natural global warming that’s going on.

“Volcanic ash reaches 35 miles into the stratosphere and can be as wide as the state of Montana. That ash absorbs the sun’s heat and affects the Earth’s temperature by cooling it. A world cooled by just one degree lowers the freeze zone by 300 miles.”

According to Browning-Garriss, the three major oceans shift heat around the globe and affect rain patterns: “The gulfstream, for instance, has been moving faster in recent years and that makes the Atlantic ocean warmer, spawning more hurricanes and bringing in more moisture and heat to our farmlands.

“This said, the gulfstream has been warming and speeding up since 1995 and won’t slow down for another 40 years. For farmers, this means at least 20 more years of very hot summers in the Ohio valley,” she concluded.

The third thing affecting our weather, Browning said, are prevailing winds. Those are caused by El Nino off the coast of California.
“The heat from the El Ninos are formed off the West Coast and the prevailing winds send that warm, moist air eastward,” she said. “There is one forming off the California coast right now and if it gains strength, we can expect a warmer winter but plenty of moisture.”

Several attendees at the grain symposium tried to coax Browning-Garriss into making a forecast for next spring’s growing season.
“I’m not a weather person, I’m a historical climatologist who simply looks at weather records continuously,” she said. “I study tree rings, glaciers, sediment layers and more.

“I’m not looking into a crystal ball to make a forecast. I simply tell what happened in the past and give my clients a perspective so they can make their own decisions.” In the end, however, she said they could expect weather conditions in 2013 just as they saw in 2012.