Weather and politics can drive us buggy

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A near-perfect weekend of mostly fair skies and mild temperatures segued into a wetter new week as increasing cloudiness and intermittent showers associated with a warm front moved through eastern Washington on Monday.

Following on the heels of a February that was Walla Walla’s 14th driest since record keeping began in 1949, March has so far proven to be rather disappointing in the precipitation department. Only a scant eight-hundredths of an inch of rainfall has been recorded at the airport this month as of Sunday.

Though many are reluctant to utter the dreaded ‘d’ word, the trend for 2013 has not been very promising. It is hoped that this next round of moisture during the week will provide something more substantial that will put such unpleasant notions to rest.

Drought is not the only curse that currently threatens our world. In Egypt, clouds of voracious locusts have descended on crops in swarms estimated to number 30 million — perhaps a modern day warning to the new pharaoh in town, Mr. Morsi, to mend his wicked ways. One quick-witted scribe who writes for the Times of Israel called on Egypt’s president to allow Israeli aircraft access to Egyptian airspace over the Sinai to distribute pesticide to combat the winged scourge. “Let us spray!” the headline proclaimed.

The Middle Eastern locust swarm may seem large but pales in comparison to the hordes of Rocky Mountain locusts that blacked out Midwest skies in 1875. This swarm was estimated to have covered some 198,000 square miles — an area about 20 percent larger than the entire state of California — and to have contained several trillion of the hungry critters collectively weighing several million tons!

Though your weatherperson is not forecasting a return of this particular plague to the wheat fields and vineyards of southeastern Washington (especially difficult given that they became extinct in 1902), the mild 2012-13 winter is cause for concern. Many insect pests who overwinter here and whose numbers are usually reduced by spells of deep cold that we normally experience during rigorous winters have drawn a pass this year and will show up in larger than usual quantities as the new growing season gets under way.

In the vineyard, this means growers should be particularly wary this spring of cutworms and their nefarious nocturnal feeding on swollen and newly-broken grape buds. These cunning creatures are high up on your weatherperson’s personal top-10 plague list — along with the New York Yankees; the NRA; Arizona State University athletics; the Tea Party; the Kardashians; the execrable condition of our city streets; noisy, ill-behaved children in a public venue; Justice Scalia; and studded tires.

Unfortunately, that list is composed of items that will not go away anytime soon. But our upcoming week’s weather scenario may help mollify your weatherperson’s curmudgeonly attitude a bit if it comes through as promised with some much-needed rain.

The warm front that traverses our area on Monday will push through to the north, leaving a milder southwesterly flow on Tuesday and a decreasing chance of showers on Wednesday along with afternoon temperatures that may ascend into the upper-60s. As the high that is supplying this mild flow recedes later in the week, moisture may return once again by week’s end into the coming weekend with a Pacific low pressure system forecast to make a Washington landfall late Saturday or early Sunday.

Some decent rainfall here does not appear to be an unreasonably outlandish hope. If Mr. Obama can extend an invitation to some much-reviled Republicans to break bread with him, can it be too much longer before we see a real rainstorm or the lion lie down with the lamb?

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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