Climatologist talks dry spells


Director of the Climate Research Division at Scripps Institute, Dr. Dan Cayan.

With the exception of some precipitation in the mountains Thursday, the near non-stop sunny and warm weather has dominated January. We checked in with a climatologist, who has long studied the Eastern Sierra, for a view on what’s happening in our atmosphere.

Dan Cayan, Climate Researcher at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, says there is no obvious answer to the question of the relentless high pressure system over the West.

Cayan has studied the Eastern Sierra for many years as part of the California weather patterns and through the eyes of Global Warming research. Cayan said the “$64,000 question is why does the persistent pattern in the atmosphere continue to be so tenacious. I’m not sure,” he said, “that there is a great answer.” He did say dry weather in the West and the polar system in the East and North are actually one big weather system of a high ridge and a polar pattern.

Cayan looked back at 1977 which he called a “somewhat similar form of current weather.” That year was extremely dry in California. Cayan said the last couple of weeks have begun to resemble 1977. He said one big question is will the pattern break down? In the next week, Cayan said, it doesn’t look like it.

On the hopeful side, Cayan said February is a “decent month for California precipitation. It’s not,” he said, “as if the winter is over.” He added that it will be difficult to climb out of the hole we’re in water-wise.

Some national media have blamed an ocean phenomenon for the drought. It’s called Pacific Decadal Oscillation, in which the sea surface temperatures impact climate – similar to but different from the El Nino/ La Nina effect. Cayan said there is now a “weird pattern which is not totally Decadal Oscillation.” Climatologists disagree over the ocean’s impact on atmosphere or the other way around.

Does he think we’re in an extended drought? Cayan said it’s hard to tell. What we need, he said, is what’s known as a Pineapple Express, or heavy wet system, to “replenish the deficit.” Cayan did say as we get further into the winter, the odds of snow are against us.

But the climatologist did say that just because we’re in a dry spell does not mean we should fear a perpetual dry stretch. Said Cayan, “Eventually, we will see a reversal.”


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28 Responses to Climatologist talks dry spells

  1. sugar magnolia January 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Well, that was pretty useless information….but here’s to hoping things turn around SOON!
    I remember 1977…we lost our lawns in the Bay Area…our family trips to LA revealed ZERO water conservation and restrictions…in fact people in the southland were still hosing down driveways and sidewalks!

  2. Mr. NRA January 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    Meanwhile in other news….. The Watering Holes of Whiskey Creek in Bishop and Mammoth have closed.
    It’s a Drought indeed.

  3. JeremiahJoseph January 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    It’s hard to tell, the ones who have the best clues are the scientists, but ask yourself this? Can what you and I do today be carried out for the next 7 generations? and if not it’s time to take responsibility for the outcome we may be leaving to generations after us….We including myself have lost the connection to what really drives our daily lives, and we act like the circle of life revolves around us, when really we are just another organism that emerged from the other organisms around us…

    • Jason Bauerfield January 24, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

      This drought is a blip, and as the climatologist says, “Eventually, we will see a reversal.”

      Yes, it is scary and uncomfortable now. But when the high pressure off the coast breaks down, and the rains and the snows move in, we will sigh in relief, and life will go on, as it always does.

  4. Garry Sandel January 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    Great journalism and interview. Responses from the “expert”: “maybe,” “it’s hard to say,” “nobody really knows,” “eventually, it will break,” “that’s the $64,000 question, “you’re guess is as good as mine.”

    Thanks for the great information.

    • Benett Kessler January 24, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

      What the interview reveals is we know very little about the real nature and motivation of weather. If we did, our lives would be much more predictable. That’s what the interview goes to show. BK

  5. Ed Cesnalis January 25, 2014 at 5:02 am #

    I agree Benett we know very little about the real nature and motivation of weather. If we have no real basis to predict the weather then I suggest we have none to predict climate change either.

    • Benett Kessler January 25, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Predictions are difficult, but world scientists have discovered, not predicted, that climate change is occurring mostly as a result of greenhouse gases.

      • Ed Cesnalis January 25, 2014 at 11:45 am #

        Your world scientists didn’t discover anything, they built predictive models and sell the results of their modeling as ‘science by consensus’

        The models have no provision for the last 17 years of no warming they are wrong.

        I cannot accept that short term predictions are difficult but long term they become discoveries.

        • Benett Kessler January 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

          It’s not long term. It’s right now. Check with the polar bears.

          • Ed Cesnalis January 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

            Of the 19 polar bear sub-populations some are increasing, some are holding and some are decreasing. 7 sub-populations are so remote that there are no data to determine their trend.

            2013 was predicted to bring us an ice free arctic, instead 2013 brought a 50% increase in ice coverage.

            Polar bears have been around for 5 million years and have proven to be resilient and resistant to climate change.

          • Benett Kessler January 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

            So, you do believe in climate change. Not interested in debating you. It’s a subject that intelligent people should investigate and decide for themselves. It’s too serious for web blog jousting. Check this out –

          • Charles O. Jones January 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm #


            Just curious – Do you reject the opinions of the experts in all fields of science, or just the opinions of those who are experts in the field of climate science?

            Clearly the majority of the experts in the field of climate science would agree with the points addressed in Benett’s link. If you have a credible source that contradicts the points addressed in the NASA link, please share it so we can all learn more on this topic. But without a credible source, your just another guy on the internet with an opinion.

        • Ken Warner January 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

          It’s climate deniers like yourself that have gotten us all into this mess.

          The climatologists are measuring — not predicting. 2013 was the 4th hottest year since records began to be collected.

          And just because you don’t believe the existing science doesn’t mean you won’t be affected by climate change.

          • Ed Cesnalis January 26, 2014 at 7:58 am #


            Sceintific method is not based on ‘opinions of the experts.’ Experts exist with conflicting ‘opinions’ yet the alarmist alone are supported in the MSM.

            Benets link starts with a hockey stick graph of co2 levels and then supports that co2 drives temperature increases. Here is a Watts article exploring correlation vs causation and the validity of this concept

            See for a collection of links that support both sides of this theory with new thoughtful links added every few days.

            There are 2 sides and the alarmists are currently winning a popularity contest not a scientific debate, they claim there is no debate.

          • Benett Kessler January 26, 2014 at 11:54 am #

            Who do you believe? NASA? Wattsupwiththat?

          • Ken Warner January 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

            For the past two years geochemist James Powell – author of The Inquisition of Climate Science – has surveyed peer-reviewed literature on climate change, and produced charts documenting how many scientists do not support the theory that humans are behind it.

            This year Powell found that out of 2,258 peer-reviewed articles on climate change – authored by 9,136 scientists in the period between November 2012 and December 2013 – just ONE denied the existence of man-made climate change.


          • Charles O. Jones January 27, 2014 at 9:42 am #


            I realize there is debate, there always will be. And forget the MSM, show us ONE credible scientific organization that supports your opinion.

            There are those who still deny the link of cigarettes to lung cancer. There are those who still deny that a high fat diet contributes to hear to heart disease. There are even a few out there who will still deny the earth is round. Climate change is no different. And the credibility of your links only serves to hurt your argument.

        • tbone January 27, 2014 at 11:50 am #

          I agree with Ed. What if global warming is a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?

  6. MJA January 25, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    I think if no one drove a car today it would snow tomorrow. =

  7. Mongo The Idiot January 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    In order to diagnostically prove any theory about human caused earth climate changes we would need a variable model of the earth large enough to make any variation due to mass or molecular phenomenon negligible.
    Until then all we have are dead reckoning, general observation, and common sense; all of which are in short supply and easily derailed with the word “nope”.

    Until then, this is plausible;
    I think if no one drove a car today it would snow tomorrow. =

  8. Roger January 26, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    California has experienced long droughts in the past. evidence of this can be seen in Walker canyon at Chris flat by the presence of tree stumps in the bed rock in the bottom of the river.According to research, tree stumps in the river and on the bottom of Tenaya lake are evidence of a drought that lasted aprox 150 years, 900 years ago. It seems that this type of tree will die if the roots are covered with water for more than two weeks. Carbon dating and dendrology were used for ageing information.

  9. enoughalready January 27, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Climatologist talks dry spells – but its mostly hotair and windless. It might, it might not – next question. Yes thats true! A lot of rain and snow would end this drought – next question. We’ll have to wait and see – continuation of this dry spell will only prolong the drought.

    • Benett Kessler January 27, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      Sometimes the truth is unsatisfactory isn’t it.
      Benett Kessler

      • Ken Warner January 27, 2014 at 11:21 am #

        Talking about GLOBAL climate change takes more than looking around your neighborhood and extrapolating what you see to the entire World.

        California is a pretty small area on the World. California can be in drought or flooded at various times and other parts of the World can be completely different.

  10. Mongo The Idiot January 27, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    Not many people know about this water reversal.
    It will happen again; it obliterated many California towns.

    • Charles O. Jones January 27, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Interesting link

      Thanks Mongo

      • Mongo The Idiot January 27, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

        Thank You Chas for the hat tip,
        I have seen old stereo photos by a Lawrence & Houseworth who were there to document the flooding at Sacto. city.
        Looking at old pictures can really teach you a lot about history.
        For me there is a difference between reading about a suicide compared to seeing a picture of widow and children with the caption “Young family abandon as father committed suicide due to loss of water on ranch”.


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