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[pct-l] Long Range Weather Forecast - For 2003 PCT'ers

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The report below predicts "dry in the Pacific Northwest" and "wet relief in
California" suggesting a North to South hike could be better or possible next
year if the Sierras get dumped on and the PNW gets little this winter.

As in the past couple years, Tom Reynolds and I will again take a stab at
predicting the snow meltoff in the Sierras beginning around mid February and
solidifying around mid March in order to help you 2003'ers plan your start

Greg "Strider" Hummel

WASHINGTON (Sept. 12) - The drought gripping nearly half the United States is
expected to linger for another six months due to the arrival of a weak El
Nino weather phenomenon, U.S. government forecasters said on Wednesday.

Much of the U.S. Plains states, the West and parts of the Midwest and South
have seen corn fields wither, grazing pastures shrivel and forests turn into
kindling this summer due to unrelenting high temperatures and lack of rain.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said El Nino, an evolving
global weather anomaly already wreaking havoc in Southeast Asia, would
provide only limited drought relief when it arrives in the U.S. this autumn.

About half of the U.S. is already experiencing some degree of drought,
ranging from mild to extreme.

''While some improvement in the drought is possible, namely across the
Southwest and southern and central Plains states, it may not be enough to
alleviate dry conditions entirely, particularly in the Northwest, Northeast,
mid-Atlantic and the Ohio Valley,'' said Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's
National Weather Service.

El Nino, or ''little boy'' in Spanish, is expected to impact U.S. weather
patterns starting later this month and ending next spring. The weather
phenomenon is an above-average warming of water in the eastern Pacific that
occurs every four to five years.

Experts say this year's El Nino will be much milder than the devastating
1997-98 episode, which claimed 24,000 lives and caused an estimated $25
billion in damage worldwide.

''We've had our eyes on this El Nino for months, and understand it well
enough to predict its likely impacts months in advance,'' said Jim Laver,
director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.


NOAA predicted that El Nino would bring scant rainfall and snow to a northern
tier of U.S. states as well as the mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

However, El Nino would unleash beneficial wet weather throughout the southern
half of the United States, stretching from California to the Carolinas.

The prolonged drought has scorched U.S. wheat, corn and soybean crops, which
will be the smallest in years. Some areas of Nebraska, Kansas and Montana
have been likened to the devastating ''Dust Bowl'' of the 1930s.

Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. Agriculture Department said crop-wilting
drought would cut the corn harvest to 8.85 billion bushels, soybean crop to
2.66 billion bushels and cotton harvest to 18.1 million bales. The production
decline has trimmed global inventories and boosted prices.

Dry weather in the Pacific Northwest could also impact electricity supplies
for that region, which is largely dependent on hydroelectric power.