Santa Claus Oscillation or Armageddon?

This time of the year we are asked to believe in the magic of Christmas.  At the same time others claim that the world will end on Saturday.  Choices, choices.

Let’s review the options.

Option #1: TGIF or OSIF (image from

Weather forecast (from

By the way, as a kid my favorite book was “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, so according to this forecast it appears this may come to fruition tomorrow. Spicy meatballs apparently.

Then again, relying on GFS and other extended-range forecast models, it appears that this is just another fantasy.  Instead, it looks like the 22nd will bring precipitation across the Northwest and Northern California with cooler air pushing in behind the front.


As an aside, the US and western US in particular have been rather warm the last month, with a notable lack of any cold air outbreaks [although this may change near New Years]


Option #2: Santa Claus Oscillation (SCO)

Climatologists like myself often try to understand the dynamics and patterns of natural climate cycles including the El Nino Southern Oscillation, Arctic Oscillation and Madden-Julian Oscillation.  Here I describe the basis for a new oscillation that has a strong annual periodicity and has widespread impacts.


  • Persistent Annual Anomaly which occurs on exactly Dec 25.
  • Westward propagating wave that emanates from North Pole and dives southwestward. Wavenumber ~19.
  • Very fast moving : 400 m/s
  • Source and sink of energy appears to be the Northern Pole
  • Often noted by red ball-lighting in the sky and the thunder of hooves upon rooftops
  • Hypothesized to be tied to position of stars in sky, and/or star-like lights decorating houses, as well as cookies and milk being left out overnight.

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 12.14.44 PM


  • Deposits pseudo-presents and circum-transports celebration across the globe
  • Increased chance of reindeer
  • Antecedent deforestation of 6-8’ Douglas fir trees
  • Increased consumption of oddities such as eggnog, figgy pudding, and fruitcake
  • Increased use of hideous red and green sweaters


  • Positive correlation to mall traffic in November and December – implied causation
  • Negative correlation to unemployment rate of pot-bellied old men with white beards
  • Snowcover and ice-rinks in places that climatologically never receive snow and have temperatures that can not support ice.

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 12.22.35 PM

Above: Annual Cycle of Mall Traffic (green) and Unemployment Rates for Pudgy Old Men with White Beards (red).


Antecedent elements have developed earlier each year with developments seen in the United States in October or earlier. This result is interesting since observations have shown widespread warming during the fall months with 2012 being the 2nd warmest Sep-Nov on record. This decoupling of climate and antecedent preparation of the SCO is particularly troubling to some and warrants further research.

* Note: the SCO was originally put together during 2003 in grad school at UC Irvine.  It has yet to fail since.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by John Abatzoglou. Bookmark the permalink.

About John Abatzoglou

John is an associate professor of Geography at the University of Idaho. John's interests are centered around climate and weather of the American West and their impacts to people and natural resources of the West. John and his Applied Climate Science Lab at the University of Idaho have published nearly 100 papers and book chapters on climate science, meteorology, and applied climate science connecting climate to water resources, wildfire and agriculture. The research group also develops web-based climate services that connect climate data with decision makers to help improve climate readiness of societies and ecosystems.

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