Knowing Which Way The Wind Blows

It is pretty difficult to know what’s what in the world of Global Warming, or should we call it Global Weirdness? The weather we get these days seems to come in only one size: extreme.

The world’s biggest weather phenomenon, El Nino, is expected to occur again this year. El Nino comes around every two to seven years. It is caused by warm water building up in the western Pacific and then moving east towards the coast of South America. Just a few degrees of warmer water off the coast of Peru can cause big changes all over the globe. This year’s El Nino is expected to be the biggest since records started to be kept in 1950. Ugh.

The chart above shows what might happen. Here in the U.S. we could get a lot more rain in the West and the South. This is great for water starved California but it could also lead to significant flooding. And the bigger water issue in California, the lack of snow pack in the High Sierras, will not be solved by El Nino. Still we will grasp at any straws we can: increased rain in the West and South will on balance help agricultural conditions in the U.S.

The outlook for the rest of the world is a bit dicier. Places like Indonesia and Brazil which are already suffering multi-year droughts could see more dry conditions. But let’s keep things in perspective. All is not lost that is in peril. Expected disasters sometimes are not as dire as predicted. Witness Hurricane Patricia which recently hit the Mexican coastline. This was the strongest Pacific hurricane ever recorded but it did relatively minor damage. The Mexican government was well prepared and the expected storm surge never fully developed.

How about the longer term weather picture? Shown to the left courtesy of National Geographic is a take on U.S. grain production in 2050. Global Warming means that warmer temperatures will move further north hurting U.S. crops in the South but benefitting the Midwest and Northern Plains. With the growing season extending north, the Canadian wheat belt should be a big winner. 

But the Southern hemisphere will be hurt as temperatures rise and some crops wilt. Brazil’s bountiful food belt may not be as bountiful in the future, and Africa, India, parts of China and Southern Asia will be negatively affected. The winners besides Canada include most of Europe and Russia too. The U.S. will on balance be a net winner.

Long term pictures are always fraught with uncertainly but, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.