Pacific Bad Boy Reigns

I showed up for the acoustic jam at Avo's last Wednesday and there on the front step tuning up her 18-string guitar while trying to greet all her old friends was someone I hadn't seen since last September. "Hey Summer Thyme," I said. "Where have you been hiding?"

"She's been down in Peru, where the living is easy," said Seymour Sharpe before Summer could answer. She maintained her concentration on the electronic tuner.

"Fish are probably jumping, too," I said finishing the song Seymour always irritates her with. She can't help it if her parents were commune hippies with nature-loving souls.

"Don't encourage him," she said not looking up from the tuner. "Now I'm remembering why I didn't come back sooner." She gave her highest E-string a vicious twist.

I tried to cover myself. "Ummmm, I was just referring to El Nino, figuring the fish are trying to cool off by jumping out of the warm water."

Now she stopped and looked up. "El Nino's warm water?" she asked. "I thought it was some kind of weather system."

"It is part of the weather system," said Seymour. "Warm water and cold water affect evaporation rates which affect both the winds and humidity which becomes clouds and storms and barometric pressures depending on the land masses, sunshine, and butterflies."

"Butterflies," said Summer, twisting her shoulder to display her blue fritillary tattoo. "How do they affect the weather?"

"It's just an expression," said Seymour. "The Butterfly Effect. Weather is a chaotic system, inherently unstable, and a minor change such as a butterfly flapping its wings in China can theoretically change the amount of rainfall in Iowa."

"Chaos is cool," I said. "Certain fractal patterns can be interpreted as graphs of chaotic systems. Following one line may get you way up into a purple area full of twirls while moving over just a bit gets you on a different line that drops you into a yellow area full of sharp triangles."

"What he's trying to say," explained Seymour, "is that at the beginning of measuring a chaotic system, such as the weather, any minor change such as a bit more snowfall or slightly higher ambient temperature or even the flapping of a butterfly's wing will send the pattern off into a wildly different result."

"And El Nino is wildly different and caused all this destruction in the US," I said. "Mud slides in California, tornadoes in Mississippi, and even hantavirus deaths here in Colorado."

"It didn't cause any of that," said Seymour. "I know," he raised his hand to stop my objections, "about all the garbage in the media, but no one truly knows where weather starts. El Nino is just a facet of the weather that happens to be located in the ocean so people think it's separate. Plus it's got a catchy name. That allows people to think they've finally found something to blame for the weather. If you look the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's El Nino web page at, it even lists many of the variables affecting weather such as winds, sea level pressure, temperature, snow cover, outgoing radiation, and various oscillation and teleconnection patterns. So merely blaming El Nino for a tornado is redundant, like blaming the weather for the weather."

"Or blaming Congress for government," I said. "Hear that Summer?" I looked down but she wasn't there. "Where'd she go?"

"Probably inside," said Seymour, "to get her guitar out of this cool breeze. A media person such as yourself would probably write a headline saying El Nino chased Summer away."