Can one hundred-year precipitation record produce patterns allowing seasonal weather prediction?

Author(s): Buka, H.; Pote, J.; Wax, C.; Linhoss, A.

Rainfall prediction remains a scientific and technical challenge, since rainfall is the most difficult element of the hydrological cycle to forecast. Precipitation predictions as produced by the weather services are frequently poor beyond a few days. Using historical precipitation data to predict future rainfall is possible, as rainfall tends to follow previous patterns that can be easily explained through statistical and mathematical procedures. Rainfall is the most important climatic variable on which most crops are dependent. In Mississippi, however, certain climatic phenomena such as El Nino – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) comprised of the warm phase (El Nino) and the cold phase (La Nina) can be responsible for irregular climatic changes such as uneven distribution of rainfall, thereby making predictions using past patterns challenging. This study attempted to determine the extent to which rainfall received during six months (September -February) prior to the growing season can be used to predict rainfall during the growing season (March - August). The assumption is that certain patterns might be good indicators of climatic oscillations that could persist. One hundred years of previous precipitation data from the Delta Research and Extension center will be used and statistical equations and analysis will be performed to provide three outputs useful to producers. The outputs include normal climate, average growing season for the closest ten years matching pre-growing season, and the single year that closely matches the current growing season. The results will be shown as 20, 50 and 80 percent probability brackets. This study will address issues such as i) can the second six months’ variations be low enough to consider it as a good predictive tool and ii) can established patterns be tied back to teleconnection to make predictions based on those.

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