Helio, La Niña, and bad winters, awww nuts!!


While doom and gloom predictions continue about CO2 induced global warming, saying that it now is the largest driver of climate, overwhelming any influences of the suns variation, there appear to be other things happening. There are forecasts emerging for a wet and cold winter.

Lets review. We have a longer than normal solar minimum occurring, and we have a strong La Niña developing too. We have colder water in the Pacific.

Here is a animated view of the growing La Niña. Watch the animation, note the exapnding La Niña off the west coast of South America, note also the expanding pool of cooler water developing the Gulf of Alaska. This will be a key formation point for cold wet storms.

And there are other signs too. Acorns. Have you noticed this year we have an overabundance of acorns? I was walking in Bidwell Park a couple of weeks ago and the ground was covered with them, and they were still raining down like hailstones. I’ve never seen anything like it. This has been what biologists call a “mast year” for valley oaks.

While this may sound a bit like an “Old Farmers Almanac” moment, but I have a theory for it.

Trees are directly in touch with the sun, more so than other living things in the biosphere. Our “valiant” dendroclimatologists, like Michael Mann, point to tree rings as a proxy for earths climate. That may be true, but I think in addition to “treemometers” they also act as helioproxies too.

In a nutshell (ahem); I think it’s highly likely that trees have evolved survival strategies that are based on detecting changes in the sun’s output. It stands to reason that over the billion plus of years that plant life has been on earth and the millions of solar cycles they’ve been through, that they can detect changes in their primary energy source, the sun, and adapt accordingly. Producing abundant acorns could well be such a survival strategy.

We have strong signs of a solar cycle that is late and well below average, a near record low hurricane season, and a strong La Niña emerging.  Now we have valley oaks producing acorns like there is no tomorrow. Maybe we should heed the trees.

h/t Russ Steele at NCwatch for the animation for forecast links

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October 27, 2007 9:20 am

My Great Uncle Frank, a mining engineer who retired to the family ranch early, spent a lot of his time walking in the Sierra woods observing nature first hand after he returned from Korea in the 1930s. He based part of his winter forecast on the number of acorns, and when they started falling. He also made note of the number of acorns the squirrels were putting away and when the first flock of geese arrived on the ranch pond for stop over on their way south. The amount of honey to bees stored was also a parameter. All this was part of Uncle Frank’s prediction for the coming winter. He was sure that Mother Nature knew more about the coming winter than the “Old Farmers Almanac,” and he took great pride in being more accurate. Of course when he was wrong, he never mentioned missing his winter forecast. But, as I recall Uncle Frank was more right than wrong. Thanks for the link!

October 27, 2007 9:38 am

Hmm. Has anyone to plotted climate projections with the Farmers’ Almanac?
Might the modelers have something to learn from the Old Wives?
I am beginning to think the climate modelers may be on the wrong tack. They seem to be trying to simulate Operation Barbarossa by using Advanced Squad Leader rules.
That is to say, they are attempting to solve an army-level equation via a squad-level milieu.
Needless to say, they become lost in a quasi-religious fog (not unlike a lot of ASL players I know).

October 27, 2007 10:14 am

But for now, Rev, I’m sticking with the hypothesis that climate change is due to the wickednes of children. There seems to be about as much evidence for that one ans any ot the others.
I recall with considerable amusement Saint Mac’s wry comment last June that red states (cooling) vs. blue states (warming) seem to be a somewhat better temperture proxy than bristlecone pines.

Steve Moore
October 27, 2007 11:04 am

Well, maybe that explains what’s going on in my back yard.
There are 3 oak trees back there, and this year they are doing their best to cover the ground.
Only been here a few years, but have never seen anything like this.

October 27, 2007 11:17 am

Similar evidence from the UK – flocks of siskins arriving from Eastern Europe and early arrival of pinkfoot geese from Greenland.

Chris Manuell
October 27, 2007 1:20 pm

Although I agree with most things I see on the site Michael, I’m not so sure about the theory on the Acorns.
We also have a belief in England that a lot of Holly berries mean a hard winter. but generally when a tree produces a lot of fruit it is for one of two reasons, the main one being that there was good warm dry weather during the flowering period. This allows the insects to pollinate the flowers and the pollen to germinate and fertilize the seeds.
The other reason can be particularly in fruit trees that they are under undue stress, the tree seems to have a mechanism to procreate if it is going to die.
But this tends to be on isolated trees rather than all of them. So I think in this case it’s more likely to be the former, it is a history of what has happened rather than a prediction of the future.

October 27, 2007 1:26 pm

Here in Perth, Western Australia our winter has been unusually long, cold and wet. Yesterday, the high temp was 16C. I6C would be considered a cold day in the middle of winter (July). It’s very unusual at the end of October.
Also, as someone at Climate Audit has observed about US west coast weather, the forecasts have underestimated how cold and wet it would be over the last few days. This may well indicate a climate shift from the norms/averages built into the models.

October 27, 2007 2:02 pm

I wouldn’t read that much into the acorn abundance for several reasons. Oaks tend to produce acorn crops of varying sizes from year-to-year with large crops every 2-4 years as part of a natural biological cycle. Production also is dependent on successful pollenation in the previous spring. If it was poor due to wet weather for example, then the crop will be below normal; if conditions were optimal, then just the opposite is possible. There’s a lot of adaptability in organisms allowing them to handle environmental changes, survive, and even flourish. They’re great integrators of the physical factors affecting them — which makes it unlikely they are the best recorders of the pure signal of these factors. Producing lots of acorns definitely is a survival strategy as the reality is that most of these will not survive to maturity. Only a few will make it to fertile soil, avoid being eaten, out-compete rivals, survive storms and fire and a thousand other challenges. It’s hard to see where this forecasts one cold wet winter though.
Here in the Northeast we’ve had an unusually long, warm, dry fall season. The Woolybear catepillars are “predicting” a long cold winter (wide middle brown band bounded on both ends by short black bands). Seems they’re already wrong.

October 27, 2007 2:11 pm

But in local news Southern California is being told to brace for another record low precipitation season due to the very same La Niña conditions. All bad things equal AGW.

M. Jeff
October 27, 2007 7:48 pm

Local observation from Texas: The live oaks at my home had their greatest acorn production following the hot dry summer of 2006. This year, after a much cooler and unusually wet summer, the acorn production is greatly reduced. Pollination as mentioned by Chris Manuell (13:20:52) and Gary (14:02:09) might be part of the explanation for the previous large crop. But that crop was such an extremely large variation from the norm that I’m inclined to believe that survival mode was involved.

George M
October 27, 2007 8:15 pm

We have several hundred Live Oak treees on our two acres here in South Texas. Last year was classified as a drought, and there were few to no acorns, and the foliage looked gray and pitiful. Then the rains started in the winter and continued through the spring into the summer. We are at about 2X average rainfall so far. The live oak foliage, which overwinters and is replaced in the spring, looks green and full, but there was little pollen due to the rain. However, this year’s acorn production is on a par with a bumper crop I recall one year in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, I made no record of exactly which year so I can’t accurately correlate the weather that year.
Pecan crops are notoriously biennial (I think that is the correct word for every two years), with a poor one last year, and early reports of a good crop this year. Except for a very bad drought, the crop rarely correlates well with any obvious weather conditions.

October 27, 2007 9:32 pm

See, I was right. Climate change IS due to the wickedness of children!
El Nino y La Nina . . .
Son muy mechant!

October 27, 2007 9:53 pm

As a Meteorologist, anytime I needed to be humbled, I would take a stab at predicting how the next winter in Montana would go. There are always elements that you need for such a forecast that are only predictable at most two weeks in advance. The official NOAA outlook for this winter is EC (Equal Chances) which is code for “we don’t have enough skill in this scenario to make a forecast in that region”. I looked at the history of La Nina winters in Montana and half were mild and dry and the other half were cold and wet. I can understand why CPC went with EC given the history. It all hinges on how the jet stream over the pacific establishes itself this winter. Accuweather seems to think that a zonal jet pattern will dominate which would mean mild and dry winter for Montana. This is also the tendency with a moderate to strong La Nina. Of course, there is always an exception to the rule and it happens every year.

October 28, 2007 8:29 am

RE: Winter in MT.
I hedged my bets slightly this year by getting a season pass in both MT and ID. Here’s hoping for big snows at one or the other or both.

October 29, 2007 10:43 am

Coast live oaks are having a bumper crop this year. We are going to get clobbered.

October 29, 2007 11:10 am

“Poor Tom’s a-cold.”

October 30, 2007 9:22 pm

Adding to Gary’s comment about the oaks being on a 2-4 year cycle of having a “bumper crop” year, one theory for this is that the predator population (such as squirrels) stabilizes based on an “average” acorn year. Thus, the occasional “mast year” allows the trees to overwhelm the existing predator population with more than they can eat, thus increasing the chance of more acorns sprouting into trees.

October 31, 2007 1:25 pm

Things are different in California. Our oaks are a lot more affected by sun and other leading indicators of the coming winter. The reason? Our annual dry season. If oaks do not produce seeds with appropriate timing vs the expected spring conditions and expected length of the summer dry, then they fail. Very, very different from Eastern oaks and their behavior.

November 1, 2007 6:00 am

“Our oaks are a lot more affected”
“very different from Eastern oaks and their behavior.”
Well, WE have MIGHTY oaks out HERE.

Stan Needham
November 1, 2007 2:31 pm

We have mostly Red and White Oaks in our woods. It’s a pretty average acorn crop this year, compared to 2005 when the ground was covered. The Hickory nut crop this year is above average.
Something else I’m seeing that I haven’t seen in close to ten years are 3 bird species: Purple Finches, Red-Breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins. It’ll be interesting to see whether this winter turns out to be unusual in any way.

November 1, 2007 11:40 pm

“We have mostly Red and White Oaks in our woods. ”
Oh, yeah? Well I bet you our MANLY Empire State oaks can thrash your measly winos and affected SF limp-limbed ninnies two Falls out of three! (SIR!)

Stan Needham
November 2, 2007 5:26 am

You’re probably right, Evan, but I’ll bet our leaner and meaner squirrels can whup your fat and lazy squirrels by the same ratio.

November 2, 2007 10:58 am

I have to admit you’re right, there. Central Park squirrels are run of the mill, but Riverside Park squirrels are huge, sleek, slow, lazy, and anything but shy.
In Riverside Park, there is an upper and lower park separated by a miles-long 3′ high stone wall with a drop of 20′ on theother side. Treetops come over the wall on the lower side nd the squirrels use it as a Grand Highway, jumping from treetop to the wall, running along it, then leaping to the crown of neighboring trees.
Cloumbia University campus used to have a particularly huge squirrel off the main quads that we used to feed. A few months after I graduated, I went back to “visit” him, and what did I find. No squirrel and a big squirrel trap under its favorite tree!
Damned ecologists! They love every beastie I couldn’t care less about, but they are hell-bent to exterminate MY squirrels, MY crows, and MY pigeons.
Yes, I know pigeons have always had a bad rep, but they have made a huge comeback–they used to be nearly all the same, sirty, furtive, skinny, unhealthy, and ubiquitously gray. Backi in 1965. But now they are sleek, healthy, plump, vibrantly healthy, with amazingly variegated, colorful patterns (evolution via natural selection in action). Rich chocolate browns, lovely brick-reds, pastel yellow sandstone, and everything in between.
And NOW they are talking about wiping them out. NOW!
There just isn’t any creature I actually like that these dang “preservationists” don’t want to lay a pogrom on.

Steve Sadlov
November 13, 2007 3:24 pm

Just a final clarifying comment. California has two principle species of Oak. Coast Live Oaks (evergreens with waxy, holly like leaves) and Black Oaks (deciduous, with small semi lobate leaves). There are a number of more minor species such as Pin Oaks, Cork Oaks and other “mediterranean” evergreen forms. So far as I know, Black Oaks are the only deciduous species. The evergreen types are mostly associated with near coastal areas but can be found as far inland, in lower densities, as far as the Sierra foothills and the inner Transverse Ranges. The evergreen forms typically experience year round growth, with a late winter / early spring maximum. Some leaf drop may occur in heat – long warm spells may trigger temporary dormancy. I would reckon that the oaks in Bidwell park are mostly Black Oaks, with perhaps some non native species as well. Anthony could confirm or clarify this.

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