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January-February 2016

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From the Editor

As I write this, the days are getting shorter, and, at least in most places in North America, the weather is getting cooler. The East Coast has been experiencing some idyllic fall weather with bright sunshine and mid-sixties temperatures. The northeast is forecast to receive its first snowfall of the year. Fall is a riot of color in the northern tier of the United States, and leaves are just beginning to hint at change farther south. Here in California, the drought drags on, and with it more heat waves. Californians are sweating through more 95-degree days, holding out hope that El Niño will change their fortune in the coming months.

It's impossible to predict with 100% accuracy what the coming months of winter will bring, although major forecasting outlets are placing their bets. Will the Northeast experience the same Arctic air blasts that it shivered through for the last two winters? Will the mountains of the Pacific Northwest end their snow drought and receive a normal amount of precipitation? Will California get enough rain to put a dent in its four-year drought?

For some, the stakes are higher than simply wanting to know how many layers of clothing will be required for their commute or whether there will be frost quakes. For the farmers and ranchers who supply our food, knowing exactly what is going to happen, weatherwise, and when, is a multibillion dollar business that has benefited in recent decades from the advances in weather forecasting ability. Knowing if a rainstorm could ruin a harvest or if a freeze could devastate a citrus crop is crucial to those who make their living according to the vicissitudes of the weather. In their article “Farmers Hunger for Reliable Agricultural Weather Forecasts,” Amy G. Hadachek and H. Michael Mogil delve into the ins and outs of forecasting for America's vast agricultural industry.

This issue also features a fascinating look at cloud holes by Stanley David Gedzelman; a throwback to the great Arctic air outbreak of February 10–14, 1899, in Sean Potter's Retrospect column; and an interview with NCAR Climate Scientist Kevin Trenberth by Kimbra Cutlip. I hope you enjoy all of the articles, and, as always, I welcome feedback.       

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