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Forecasters converge on this winters weather

by: Eric Norberg Droll former Oregon State Climatologist George Taylor followed his analysis of analogous past weather years to this year by pulling out his guitar and performing his new “La Nina” song, with lyrics shown on PowerPoint slides so the audience of 365 could sing along with him. They did.

THE BEE has been covering the annual 'Winter Weather Forecast Conference' by the Oregon chapter of the American Meteorological Society for a number of years…and each year, as public awareness of this 'what will winter be like' forum grows, so does the crowd in the auditorium at OMSI. This year, the head-count of attendees was 365; and people came for the event from as far away as Canada. A Bend TV station was there.

The process of forecasting an entire season, and beyond, is based mostly on certain worldwide meteorological trends - again this year, that's the 'La Nina' ocean-temperature phenomenon in the eastern Pacific Ocean - combined with other favored indicators, to find 'analog years' in the past when conditions were similar. These matches of past years are what lead forecasters to their long-range prognostications.

This year, at the October 29 forum at OMSI, there was more unanimity than we can recall in the past - even though, as colorful former State Climatologist George Taylor pointed out near the end of the morning, there were at least three distinctly different ways of choosing the analogous years, using different indicators.

The bottom line is that all five forecasters showcased at the event decided the closest analog to our upcoming winter is the winter of 2008-09.

And, in general, that means that they expect it to be wet and generally mild to start, turning 'active' in December and January, possibly continuing through February, and with significant weather events occasionally out into April.

Kyle Dittmer, meteorologist and hydrologist the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, went so far as to predict three Willamette Valley snow events - most around an inch, but with at least one of as much as five inches. Although the others agreed there is certainly a chance for one or more snow events here; and all of them expect a snowier than average year in the Cascades.

The five forecasters this year in the forum, in addition to Dittmer, were:

• Pete Parsons, former KOIN-TV-6 forecaster, today with the Oregon Department of Forestry in Salem;

• Dave Elson, meteorologist with NOAA/National Weather Service at the Portland airport;

• Jim Little, a graduate of Cleveland High School, also a former local TV meteorologist, and today with the Oregon Departments of Forestry, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality;

• George Taylor, former Oregon State Climatologist and OSU; reportedly he and the university parted ways when the university decided that his views on climate change, based on two hundred years of Oregon statistics, were not politically correct.

Taylor, an amiable and colorful figure, did not fail to meet expectations, when he produced lyrics to a 'La Nina' song, to complement a prior composition based upon 'El Nino', and accompanying himself on guitar and with lyrics posted in PowerPoint so the audience could join him, sang his La Nina song to the tune of the Temptations' 'My Girl'. The bottom line of the song: We could see a flood event this winter, but the Southwest will again be dry.

Details of all five forecasts, plus some other forums held later in the same day at OMSI by the forecasters, and a video of Taylor performing his 'La Nina' song, are posted online at: http://tinyurl.com/3mwqmh5 .