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In for a repeat performance?

Steve Benson

Ever hear of the Madden-Julian Oscillation? Me neither. But if you’re a weather dork like me, it might interest you. Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe the phenomenon largely influenced the massive storms that slammed the West earlier this month and deposited more than 5 feet of snow in the Aspen area. Basically, the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is a tropical disturbance that influences the patterns of tropical rainfall and can produce El Niño-like features. It’s usually most active during mild El Niño winters, which is occurring this season.”As the tropical rainfall associated with the MJO shifted eastward toward the central tropical Pacific, the jet stream over the North Pacific gradually shifted eastward toward the California coast,” Wayne Higgins, a lead climate specialist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, said in a story on NOAA’s website. “This allowed recent storms to tap a deep-tropical moisture stream that dramatically increased the precipitation over California.” To most, the MJO is known simply as the Pineapple Express, which refers to storms full of tropical moisture that impact the western United States. According to NOAA, the MJO can influence tropical weather patterns for approximately 30 to 60 days. Does that mean we could be in for a repeat performance of early January’s heavy dumps? Dan Zumpfe, a meteorologist intern with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said it’s too hard to tell at this point, but it’s possible.The current ridge of high pressure is expected to break down by the middle of this coming week as a series of disturbances will slam the West Coast. But Zumpfe said these storms appear to have roots farther north and are therefore colder. “They can carry less water, but they might give us drier snow,” he said.


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