Looking out my window, I see pennants fluttering in the wind, trees and bushes dancing and waving in the breeze. This is May. In California.
Back in the ’60s and early ’70s it was like this. Then something changed. The Great Pacific Climate Shift.
The 76/77 climate shift
Between 1976 and 1977, the Tropical Pacific (the performing stage of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon) underwent a rapid warming that had global impacts, including over North America, which was wetter than usual for the following two decades. It is shown below in the Southern Oscillation index data (difference in surface pressure between Tahiti and Darwin, Australia), but could also be shown in the warming of about 0.3°C in the sea-surface temperatures of the eastern tropical Pacific region.
In 1971 I met my first college roomie. He had been given a Ford Capri for high school graduation. It had no A/C. Why? “Because we never need A/C in the Bay Area.” he said. Then just a few years later he was adding A/C to the car. That left an impression.
I’ve lived about 10 miles from where he grew up since I got a job in the S.F. Bay Area and moved here in about 1977. Just in the middle of that shift. It has been warmer ever since. I’d visited here for a good half decade as his friend prior to moving here. I know the area.
Well now we’ve changed back to what it had been. A/C not required. Winds stronger and more “puffy”. In the late ’60s / early ’70s I was taking Ground School for pilots. While I never got my license (University got in the way) I came close. We spent a lot of time on “microbursts” and “downdrafts” as those were shoving aircraft out of the sky. (2000 feet / minute down drafts with a 500 ft/min max climb aircraft means you have ‘controlled decent into terrain” – i.e. crash.) Then in the ’80s and ’90s we had nearly no accidents as the jet stream went zonal and downbursts weakened. Now it’s all back.
I’m pretty sure that some 1/2 dozen years hence someone will call this the Great 2015 / 2016 Climate Shift. Or maybe a year earlier, who knows. What is clear is that the winds have changed. With the winds, the ocean currents and temperature bands have shifted. It’s much cooler and blustier now. It is like what it had been in the “New Ice Age!” scare era of the ’60s and early ’70s. That time when you didn’t need an air conditioner here.
So far this year I have run the A/C exactly zero times.
Yesterday I wanted to run the heater, but was too cheap to heat the house in the morning knowing the afternoon would be nice. This evening I want to start the heater… This is not 1980 on the temperature front…
On the radio an hour ago I heard the weather report. Chance of rain in the coming week. That is extraordinarily unusual in this last 1/2 cycle of the PDO. Something has changed, and change is on the wind…