La Nada, Seasonal Outlooks and Italian Earthquakes…

Hi Dave, this is B.

At the beginning of January EMBC hosted a teleconference call.  You mentioned a name given to the season that is neither El Nino and La Nina.  Can you please let me know what this is called.  Just interested, that’s all.

Hi B:

The term you are searching for is ‘La Nada’ which – if you were asking Chris Farley – would translate from Spanish as ‘the Nada’ or ‘the Nothing’.

…and that’s appropriate because it provides nothing in the way of insight into just why this fall/winter has been so weird. Entering the winter season I heard some folks in the weather business – most of whom should have known better – stating that, because of ‘La Nada’ (which is technically a ‘neutral’ condition in the tropical Pacific Sea-surface temperature pattern):

“the most we can say is that the winter of 2013/14 is likely to be close to normal”.

Whatever-the-hell ‘normal’ means!

 ***Note to all media: always ask for a definition of a ‘normal’ season…then activate your Baloney Detector while asking second, third and fourth questions.

To me, that statement recalls the Italian earthquake experts in 2009. In short, said experts spoke from both sides of their mouths in the same sentence; first stating that “Earthquakes are not predictable,” then – in a stunning contradiction of themselves and the facts – offered up a veiled and powerful prediction of their own:

“…but we’re not worried about another big one.”

Villagers – historically and culturally accustomed to moving outside to sleep at night (for safety) after any tremors in their seismically-charged region – took their cue and returned to their homes.

Guess what happened next?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/22/italian-scientists-jailed-earthquake-aquila

Believe me, I understand that worthless speculation about seasonal outlooks or weather will never have the potentially deadly consequences of similarly worthless speculation about earthquakes but I think the analogy is fair.  In my career I’ve seen too many experts in weather and climate speak from both sides of their mouths too many times. It seems that unless you’ve thought about it prior, or some bright-light has prompted you to think the potential impact of the words that spill from your ‘expert’ pie-hole, it’s just too damn easy to plunge into the Italian-Earthquake-Expert Trap.

To experts everywhere: you’re welcome. Litigation is a bitch.

Ciao!

dj

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