El Nino Still Coming, No Guarantees Though

Good news and we hope it comes sooner than later, story from the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

El Niño is on track to become one of the most powerful on record, strongly suggesting California could face heavy rainfall this winter, climate scientists say..

But El Niño still hasn’t sealed the deal, and there still needs to be a dramatic change in the winds in the Pacific Ocean if it is to be as strong as it might be, said Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

“It’s still very impressive, but it’s a marathon with an El Niño,” Patzert said. “At 20 miles, do you hit the wall? Or do you pick up the pace?”

At this point, El Niño is strong and could be even stronger than the 1997-98 event, which brought heavy rain and deadly flooding and mudslides across California, and gave the south of the state double its rainfall and the mountains double the snowpack.

The latest government El Niño forecast, issued by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center on Thursday morning, said that computer models unanimously favor a strong El Niño, and that there is a 95% chance that El Niño will continue through the winter — essential if California is to benefit from increased rainfall as the state experiences its fourth year of punishing drought.

The Climate Prediction Center’s deputy director, Mike Halpert, said Thursday that sea-surface temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean are now exceeding 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the average. Those are the highest temperatures recorded “for the first time since the end of the 1997-98 El Niño.”

“The present El Niño is already one of the strongest on record and is expected to strengthen further through the late fall or early winter months,” said Daniel Swain, climate scientist with Stanford University, by email. “At this juncture, the likeliest outcome for California is a wetter-than-average winter.”

California could therefore receive stronger storms than typical, especially between December through March, Swain recently wrote in a blog post. And with sea temperatures particularly warm offshore, that could bring even more atmospheric moisture to fuel storm systems bound for this state.

“All of this suggests that there could be a substantially increased risk of precipitation-related hazards this winter in California, including flooding and landslides,” Swain wrote.

Even worse, the effects of the drought – deaths of trees and ash and debris left behind by wildfires – could increase the risk of mudslides and debris flow this winter.

California has already been feeling the effects of El Niño, with an increased number of hurricanes in the eastern Pacific that have sent intense storms over California this summer. El Niño is a factor in the rising humidity and scattered thunderstorms over the Southland this week, which have arrived from the remnants of Hurricane Linda.

Earlier this summer, storms that arrived from the remnants of Hurricane Dolores were so intense that floods knocked out an Interstate 10 bridge east of Palm Springs and dropped inches of hail on Interstate 80 near Lake Tahoe. El Niño is also believed to have influenced the heavy rains that produced flooding but ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma earlier this year.

“This El Niño is already happening and it’s already having impacts,” Patzert said, as warm ocean water from the western Pacific Ocean surges to the Americas.

But for this El Niño to rival the infamous “Godzilla El Niño” of 1997-98, as Patzert calls it, the east-to-west trade winds of the Pacific Ocean along the equator need to dramatically collapse, which would allow the sea near Peru to warm up even further. And that hasn’t happened yet, Patzert said.

“At this point, there’s no guarantees,” Patzert said. “I’m holding off on my apocalyptic rainfall forecast until I see what happens here in the next three months.”

Retrieved September 11, 2015 from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-el-nino-20150910-story.html


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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