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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published July 26 2013

Weather Talk: During 1950s, Southwest also experienced drought

Temperatures are in the 100s again across much of Texas. Extreme forest fires have flashed across New Mexico and Arizona this summer. California is parched.

The ongoing drought across the southwestern part of the U.S. continues to make news. However, these conditions have happened before. During the 1950s, much of the Southwest was in the same situation.

This portion of the world is directly affected by a circulation pattern known as the Pacific decadal oscillation. Since 2000, the PDO has switched back to the phase it retained through the 1950s, causing the Southwest to return to 1950s-type drought.

The PDO affects weather here in the northern Plains as well, but our weather is equally affected by other circulation patterns that weaken the effect of the PDO.

One noticeable effect is that the current phase of the PDO causes El Nino and La Nina circulations to set up farther west. This means the anticipated El Nino this coming winter will not necessarily signal a mild winter, whereas most El Nino winters during the 1970s through 1990s were quite mild around here.

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