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The Connection Between Dry Weather In San Diego And The Polar Vortex

Evening Edition

Aired 1/8/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Daniel Cayan, Ph.D. is a research meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Eric Larson is executive director of the San Diego Farm Bureau.


Extreme winter weather has been dominating the national headlines for days, but it seems that here in San Diego we've been living in a land that winter weather forgot.

So is there any connection between the below-freezing temperatures in the east and midwest and our mild and very dry weather? When can we expect our winter rains to start? And what, if anything, does all this have to do with climate change?

Daniel Cayan, Ph.D. is a research meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, he said California's historical climate is notoriously volatile.

"We have the greatest up and downs to our own average precipitation in the country," he said. "We have to expect conditions like this."

Cayan said what we're seeing in California and elsewhere in the west this winter all fits together with the so-called polar vortex.

But he said the $64,000 question is, will we get any rain?

"In our Mediterranean climate, the "storm track" runs from late fall to early spring and that's when we have the chance of getting the most rain," he said.

But can all this severe weather be attributed to climate change? Cayan said no.

"This weather pattern is not totally unfamiliar with weather we've seen in the past," Cayan said. "It doesn't mean this is what we should come to expect, next year could be wetter than average."

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Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | January 8, 2014 at 12:28 p.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

I noticed no mention was made of the possibile negative effects of the poisonous residues of fracking into our water resources. I realize the greed driven project overrides objections, especially since the people pushing increased fracking don't live in the areas they poison, but I never hear much about what will be done with these residues. I guess they think dumping it in the ocean is a great idea...well, that will give the privileged few relief from the seals but will they like the smell of dead fish? Does anybody ever look at more than one issue at a time?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 8, 2014 at 12:53 p.m. ― 3 years, 2 months ago

Cayan fails to mention that while the seasonal swings we can see over years and even decades are normal, data over much larger periods of time does in fact show a progressive trend in warming even when confounding factors like these shifts are taken into consideration.

I'm not sure why this point was intentionally or inadvertently omitted here, but it merits mention given the horrendous ignorance out there being spewed forth by crude comedians like Rush Limbaugh and even sitting members of high office in this country.

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