The El Niño hiccup

It was mid-summer, 2015, and the Old Farmer’s Almanac [OFA] had released its annual ‘weather trends’ forecast. As usual, the scientists went into full-on attack mode, ridiculing the publication relentlessly with haughty, self-righteous derision.

They thought they REALLY had something to denounce this time around, however, more so than ever before. OFA had predicted that much of California (especially the southern two-thirds) would still be in the throes of a drought after winter relented, despite the coming El Niño.

The ‘science’ was on their side this time, and these brilliant minds KNEW that this year’s phenomenon would dump merry buckets of soaked happiness on most of the Sunshine State. So they squeezed their superior skulls into their smarter-than-everyone-else hats, and went on a passionate assault of the annual almanac.

Here’s but one of many examples of the dismissive attitude cast upon OFA. Note the smug, contemptuous tone…

Your annual reminder that using the Farmers Almanac for a seasonal meteorological is about as good as going to a psychic.
- Matt Lanza (
@mattlanza)

The folks at the humble publication stood by their forecasts, and waited. Now that we are in March, let us see who rose to the top (emphasis mine)…

Californians were expecting non-stop rainstorms fueled by one of the largest El Niños on record.
NASA climatologist Bill Patzert famously called the massive band of warm water in the Pacific a “Godzilla” El Niño, predicted to drench drought-ravaged California
“El Niño remains immense,” Patzert insisted to CBS News. “It’s had a powerful impact over the last six months, and even this winter, all the volatile weather we’ve had across the United States — the fingerprint of El Niño is on all these events.”
 
Turns out the El Niño is so big, it shifted the jet stream further north, allowing storms to batter Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

Well now, isn’t that curious? So most of Cali has gotten what could be considered average-to-below average precipitation for this winter, and is STILL experiencing drought conditions… just like OFA predicted.

Look, I am not suggesting that one should abandon meteorology in favor of ‘secret formulas’ in centuries-old publications to plan their seasons. Nor am I asserting homespun methods of predicting weather are greater than the scientific, though it may appear I am doing just that.

What I am stating (and I am stating it without reservation) is that scientists need to get a little humility and tone down their elitist, self-flattering opinions. They — indeed, we all — need to find some balance, accept that rustic practices might have validity, and… I don’t know, have a little fun in life.

They need to realize that most of us read the OFA for that very reason, fun. We also read for the various tidbits of wisdom and knowledge found in many other places in the book, and yes… we enjoy the forecasts, too.

A vast majority of us plan not our daily lives around said-forecasts, nor do we view them with anything resembling ‘certainty.’ We do, however, find comfort in the thought of simpler, more analog methods being utilized, methods which often poke fun at — and holes in — the digital absolutism so common in modern life.

This brings us to a vital point, perhaps the most vital: These scientists also need to admit when they were wrong — seriously, without any doubt whatsoever, wrong. And they missed the El Niño forecast; they missed it badly.

So score one for the Old Farmer’s Almanac; they nailed this prediction, and did so when every intellectual aristocrat arrogantly dismissed them for making it. For those of us who are fans of OFA, us ‘simple’ folk whom prefer a more analog view of the world… that is delicious, all on its own.