Meteorologist Art Douglas is a fixture at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum each year, bringing his unique perspective on the weather to the region’s many farmers and ranchers.
This year, all eyes are on El Nino, warm water that has pooled in the Pacific Ocean, and how it will impact the West Coast’s weather during the next year.
Peterson will speak during the Pacific Northwest Farm Forum main session, which starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Dry conditions in the Pacific Northwest are part of the El Nino pattern, which started to develop in 2013. As it became a “mega” El Nino the impact spread.
Douglas predicts that El Nino will likely start to fade by March or April, with neutral conditions developing by the beginning of summer.
“It’s probably not quick enough to turn moisture conditions around in the Pacific Northwest in the critical time in which the wheat is in the ground,” Douglas, professor emeritus at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., said. “It’s not real positive.”
Douglas also expects to talk about climate change during his presentation. Warming has taken place on the planet and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has more than doubled, he said. But within the scientific community, he believes “global warming” is too often blamed for abnormal weather instead of changes in the oceans that are likely to reverse.
“If that’s the case, we’re going to see a slowdown in global warming and other types of weather patterns taking over,” he said.
For example, from 1998 to 2011, the Pacific Ocean’s “decadal oscillation” was in a good phase for moisture in the Pacific Northwest and “disastrous” for California and Texas, Douglas said. Now the cycle is changing, returning the region to drier climate similar to that in the 1960s and 1970s, he said.
In 2016, the El Nino may give way to a strong La Nina pattern, which would create a year of wet weather.
“We may have one nice, good, wet winter next year, and then we’ve got to be prepared for quite a few years of recurrent below-normal precipitation in the Northwest,” Douglas said.