VIDEO: Advice from Archuleta Office of Emergency Management

The following video, featuring Archuleta County Office of Emergency Management director Thad McKain, was contributed by local videographer Ricky White. The 4-minute video includes advice to Pagosa Springs residents, about appropriate preparations for a possibly heavy winter, based upon the presence of strong El Niño currents in the Pacific Ocean over the past several months. In the past, these types of ocean conditions have typically brought colder temperatures and added precipitation to Southwest Colorado.  (See maps, below.)

The term El Niño (Spanish for “the Christ Child”) was originally used by fishermen along the coasts of Ecuador and Peru to refer to a warm ocean current that typically appears around Christmastime and lasts for several months. Fish are less abundant during these warm intervals, so fishermen often take a break to repair their equipment and spend time with their families. In some years, the water is especially warm and the break in the fishing season persists into May or even June.

Over the past 40 years, (as I understand it) nine significant El Niños, like the El Niño of 1982-83, have left an imprint not only upon South American weather, but also on climatic conditions around the globe.  Information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests that, based to the current state of the South American El Niño, climate scientists are predicting colder than normal temperatures in southern Colorado this winter — mixed with higher than normal precipitation. In the Rocky Mountains, that combination generally means one thing:

“Snow.”

21ElNinoColoradoTemperatures

21ElNinoColoradoPrecipitation

(Maps courtesy The Weather Channel.)

Back in July, NOAA science writer Emily Becker decided to apply a name to the predicted weather event.

What’s in a name?

Tropical storms and hurricanes have been given names since the early 1950s, which helps to clarify communications. In recent years, the Weather Channel has attracted attention by naming winter storms, perhaps with similar intentions. “So why don’t we name ENSO events?” you ask. Excellent question! I propose we do name them, starting this year. Since I think we should have a theme to the names, and the theme should be action movie stars, I hereby designate the 2015-2016 event as ‘El Niño Bruce Lee’.

Apparently, a number of government offices and meteorologists have adopted Ms. Becker’s suggestion, even though it breaks with official policies established by the World Meteorological Organization. Famous tropical storms like Katrina and Sandy, for example, were simply given easy-to-remember names… and were not named after famous people, living or dead.

A few notes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website:

Until the early 1950s, tropical storms and hurricanes were tracked by year and the order in which they occurred during that year. Over time, it was determined that the use of short, easily-remembered names in written as well as spoken communications was less confusing when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time. In the past, confusion and false rumors resulted when storm advisories broadcast from radio stations were mistaken for warnings concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away.

In 1953, the United States began using female names for storms and, by 1978, both male and female names were used to identify Northern Pacific storms. This was then adopted in 1979 for storms in the Atlantic basin.

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center does not control the naming of tropical storms. Instead, there is a strict procedure established by the World Meteorological Organization. For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a list of male and female names which are used on a six-year rotation. The only time that there is a change is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate.

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