Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Long-Range Forecast: Stormy

It's always a nice feeling to find yourself in good company. Our cartoonist and Editor-In-Chief Paul Fell did just that this week, when his work was featured in NPR's 'Double Take' Cartoon feature, as were cartoons from our friends Gustavo Rodriguez and Gary McCoy.

It's also a good feeling to be proven correct. Judging from the pieces written by Greg Sargent, Sean Trende, Jonathan Bernstein, and Ed Kilgore about the Florida special election yesterday, we'd say our work is in good company in both prose and pictures.

The news, however, doesn't care much about what we did yesterday.

From the explosive revelations about the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee exposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein yesterday, to the pathetic attack on campaign financing that passed the Senate on Tuesday, to the generally positive news about Obamacare signups, new stories just keep on coming.

One story that you may have missed though, involves the weather - and it may make a big difference in your mood for some time to come.

Right now, the bear that's been the season of Winter is bigfooting all over the start of Spring throughout the Ohio Valley, on the way to our DC office, and up the coast to New England. Spring is indeed coming - and if meteorologists and climate scientists are correct this year, it's going to bring El Niño with it.

While we won't know if a true El Niño pattern has developed in the Pacific for another couple of months, after a winter that's included amazingly high temps in Alaska, desperate drought in California, and repetitive waves of snow and cold for most of the nation East of the Rockies, most of North America is likely ready for an El Niño year.

What that means in real terms is simple - wetter conditions in California, fewer hurricanes for Florida, Gulf Coast, and East Coast states, and generally more stable weather for much of the rest of North America.

Of course, we may not be able to get final confirmation that an El Niño weather pattern is in effect as soon as we'd like. Why not? Austerity and poor governing.

According to Brian Sullivan at Bloomberg.com, the National Weather Service is set to start repairing 70 massive weather buoys scatted throughout the Pacific Ocean this month, that specifically track El Niño and La Niña weather patterns. That system right now, though, is only operating at about 40 percent effectiveness.

That lack of effective investment in our weather forecasting infrastructure may not mean much to you right now - but it means millions of dollars to farmers, commodities investors, and emergency management officials. If the forecasts are wrong, due to poor information, that may mean high prices for you later this year, from the grocery store to the gas pump.

All of that may mean that while most of America may enjoy the weather this spring, that joy might get stomped on later in the year - in large part, due to unwise, austerity-based government spending restrictions, put in place by Republicans in Congress.

If the quality of the weather forecasts turn parts of the economy dark and stormy later this year, don't say we didn't warn you. Investing responsibly in our government - through paying tax money, giving our attention to real news, and getting out and voting - may seem expensive at times.

Austerity and ignorance of reality is actually far more expensive.