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Will 2012 be wet, normal or dry?

December 30, 2011

From visitors to Dokmai Garden and from the Thai family I learnt a Chiang Mai researcher declared on TV that 2012 will be as wet as 2011. This year (2011) was ‘the wettest year in 50 years’ (a saying or a fact, I do not know, based on measurements the wettest year during my short experience 2006-2011). Being well aware of how information can be distorted by media I asked what he actually said, what he based this statement on, but nobody remembered but the horrific core of the news: another year of flooding.

Since the variation in the Chiang Mai precipitation is largely due to the temperature oscillations in the Pacific Ocean, temperature measurements in various places of the ocean can fairly well predict the trend, although not in detail. One source of such scientific information is the Climate Prediction Center. According to them, it seems we are heading for a neutral 2012, but we need to keep checking the measurements on this website because different computer models give different results.

So what did the CMU researcher actually say which scared visitors and my family? Maybe he just spoke of the general trend over the coming few years, i.e. global warming in general may lead to more precipitation in our area (northern Thailand).

What is the cause of the current global warming? TV tells us it is carbon dioxide but different scientists have different opinions. As seen from above the computer models can not agree how the weather of the Pacific will be four months from now, and so creating a computer model explaining the global climate 6000 years ago (a period hotter than today) may also be somewhat unreliable. Different algorithms based on anything from carbon dioxide to lunar gravitation cycles all seem to explain the past, but when used to make predictions, the models are sometimes inaccurate. It is likely that the variation in Earth’s movements (many different types), solar variation (many different types) and volcanic activity occur independently and may affect Earth’s climate in a simultaneous and chaotic way, also resulting in cascade effects such as altering cloud patterns, wind patterns, albedo, oceanic streams and vegetation which in turn also will influence the climate, altogether making computer modeling very difficult.

A concise weather summary at Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai:

2006. Unusually wet year.

2007. Neutral year. At the end emerging La Niña, cold oceanic phase.

2008. Unusually wet year. The rainy season ended after the first week in November. La Niña, cold oceanic phase.

2009. The driest year in 70 years. El Niño, warm oceanic phase.

2010. Delayed rainy season (as an effect of El Niño), terribly wet end (August – September) and emerging La Niña.

2011. Cold and unusually rainy. The rain of the century. Northern Bangkok and the central plains flooded for weeks.

2012. ?

Eric Danell

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Will permalink
    December 30, 2011 1:28 PM

    I just read your article on carbon dioxide, very good post! I haven’t followed the debate very closely, and agree that reducing energy consumption is certainly valuable. I’m unconvinced that taxing or capping emissions will do us any good besides making people poorer through a higher cost of living.

    • December 30, 2011 2:28 PM

      To me the question is an interesting academic question.China, India, South America and Africa will not care about emissions, so we or coming generations will see if there is a reduction in average temperature inspite of the carbon dioxide.

      Cheers, Eric

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