Sunday, 19 April 2009

La Nina

The e-astronomer is currently observing at UKIRT on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Well, perhaps observing isn't the right word because he's now getting first hand experience of the dreadful last few months every observatory at the summit has been experiencing. Tonight the sky is actually clear, but now the winds are too high to allow UKIRT to open the dome. Similar to most observatories around the world, there is a wind-speed limit above which the dome has to be closed for safety reasons. Talk about frustrating, but there have been many of us in the same position recently. The only good thing about the weather is that if you're at the summit you stand a good chance of seeing a sunset similar to the picture above.

I received an interesting email recently. It contains hearsay so don't take it as The Truth, but a member of the MKWC team recently answered a question posed about why the recent weather has been so bad. The answer, it appears, is that we are currently experiencing La Nina conditions - this is the opposite to the more infamous El Nino.

What was more interesting, at least to me, was that the email summarised what climate modellers have been predicting over the last few months - clearly climate modelling is very difficult. Bear in mind these predictions were not from the MKWC people, just what they've heard:

Aug 08: possible development of a La Nina this winter

Sep 08: still a possibility of a La Nina forming

Oct 08: less possibility of a La Nina forming

Nov 08: models predict a weak La Nina but the climatologists aren't buying the prediction

Dec 08: models becoming insistent that a La Nina will form, meteorologists still don't believe the models

Jan 09: La Nina in full swing. Oops. Models predict La Nina will last into the summer of 09.

Feb 09: models predict a weakening La Nina in Feb to Apr and gone by the summer.

Mar 09: La Nina conditions persisting, models predict an end somewhere between May and July.

Apr 09: La Nina still here, should be gone by the end of June.

It does seem that the weather at the summit became really poor when the La Nina first set in and has remained consistently bad since then. We always get nasty weather at the summit during the winter, but this season has been particularly bad. Unfortunately, it may be with us for another couple of months although it gives me a chance to take yet more sunset photos...


Andy Lawrence or similar said...

At least with a megasurvey like UKIDSS, I know it will all come out in the wash. If this was my four nights as a traditional PI ...

Keera Ann Fox said...

It's that butterfly, you know. The one flapping its wings in on the Bahamas or something. But I'm happy with La Nina if she keeps giving us such stunning sunsets!