Southern California is Making a Comeback!
February 24, 2016

euro

It’s the fourth quarter and SoCal is down by three touchdowns. The clock is ticking and 17 million people are wondering if this will be a disappointing finish.  Don’t give up yet, this is the rain forecast for Sunday and Monday with more on the way.

With one month to go before one of the strongest El Ninos on record fades, the question remains: How much more rain and snow is on the way, and why has Southern California been so dry?

2015_El Nino So Far

Let’s start by going back in time and look at the El Nino rain forecast for winter. A couple of things stick out. First, notice how Southern California, Texas and Florida are all forecast to receive an above average amount of rain. The Pacific Northwest is dry and Northern California is a toss up. All of the previously strong El Ninos showed no correlation to NoCal, it was 50/50.

SoCalBust

This is what has happened so far this winter. The bonus is most of the water sheds and reservoirs, which are located in Northern California and provide water for the entire state, are filling up. But Southern California has been incredibly dry, prompting people to ask: Where is El Nino? I call this forecast the 17-million person “bust.”

What is fascinating to me is what is happening this winter in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, Washington and Portland have recorded their wettest winters ever! Record keeping goes back to 1894.  So the question is why.

SoFar

The El Nino-fueled moisture is in the Pacific, as predicted, but the jet stream has moved the rain into the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The dry slot has been Southern California and Southern Arizona. But why is this blocking ridge of high pressure here?

Warmestwater

You’ve heard us say, “Every El Nino is different.” And that is certainly the case this year. The warmest water in the Pacific Ocean isn’t near South America like it was in previously strong El Nino patterns. The warmest water is farther west, south of the Hawaiian Islands.

RisingAir

That warmth is creating a large area of low pressure and rising air.

SinkingAir

In turn, the sinking air has created a large area of high pressure keeping the rain away from Southern California.

The rain is back in SoCal March 6th and the longer term climate models have a wet March but these same models also showed a furry of storms in February and obviously that hasn’t happened. So, what do you think will happen?  You can Tweet or Facebook me at: @anthonynbcla.

Time is running out, the clock is ticking and 17 million people are wondering if SoCal can make a come back.

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El Nino & California
January 13, 2016

We are halfway though California’s wet season and in the three wettest months of the year. While we’ve been in an El Nino pattern since March, California doesn’t feel the effects of this climate pattern until late fall and winter.

2015_Snowpack_Update

The great news is Northern and Central California have been receiving a lot of beneficial rain and snow. In fact, our snowpack is more than double what it was last year at this time.  And some spots will get two more feet of snow in the next two days.  One-hundred percent is considered an “average” amount of snowpack for this date and we are right there. The below image is a comparison of the snow amounts on this date to January of 2014.

Our Northern California reservoirs are key to building up our water supply as these are the largest and provide water for the most people and land.

El Nino Rain_2

So What About Us In Southern California?

2015_MonthlyPrecip

We got our first heavy rain last week and there was quite a bit of burn scar flooding and several mud slides. We are close to reaching our monthly average halfway through the month.

No two El Ninos are the same. In 1983, most of the heavy rain and flooding in Los Angeles came in the month of March. In 1998, six storms brought more than 13 inches of rain in February. On average, we get six storms throughout an entire year.

3Vert_ENSO

If you are wondering how much rain we need to erase the deficit in Southern California, we’ve got a long way to go.

2015_DroughtDeficit

Our El Nino will end up being the strongest or second strongest on record, and comparing the top five the range in rain amounts is between 20″ and 30″. So, unless we break a record, we’ll still have a deficit, but of course the more rain we get the better.

2015_Significant El Ninos

As of mid January our current El Nino is tied with 1997/98 and peaking right now.

 

El Nino Index

 

 

El Niño strengthening and what that means for us in Southern California
July 7, 2015

2015_El Nino Strength

The latest El Niño forecast is in and it is looking more and more likely that we are in for a very strong El Niño through the winter of 2015-16.  There is even a 60% chance that we could experience the strongest El Niño in modern times.  So what does this mean for California and especially our drought?  Keep reading and I’ll try and answer this question.

ElNino_Forecast

The above image is the latest forecast for El Niño.  This shows the different models and what they are projecting.  As you can see, almost all of them are forecasting a strong El Niño with some even above the record El Niño of 1997.

2015_El Nino Rainfall

Of course the big question is: Will we get enough rain in the winter to get out of our horrific drought in California or at least make a big dent in it?  One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to El Niño is it ALWAYS brings rain.  There is the belief that every El Niño will be like 1997-98 or 1983-83 when downtown Los Angeles received 30 plus inches of rain during the water year.  The atmosphere is not that simple.  Some El Niño seasons have been dry, some wet, and others are somewhere around average.  Going back through 1950, we have seen 22 seasons with an El Niño, 12 had above-average rainfall and 10 were below-average.  This data shows a slight trend toward wet winters, but you can see it is far from a guarantee.  This is the part of El Niño that is impossible to predict.

2015_Significant El Ninos

However, the one strong correlation to getting the rain we need is if we get a significantly strong El Niño.  Check out the above graph and how all significant years brought well above average rain amounts.  If El Niño forecast continues in this direction I do think we will receive a tremendous amount of rain this upcoming winter.  To get out of our drought in California we need widespread amounts of two feet just to get back to normal.  If we get that in one season we’ll get flooding and mud slides.  We also need more than just rain.  We need our northern California mountains to get snow.  A concern I have is, if the temperatures are too warm, we’ll get a lot of rain but no snow.  The snow in the Northern Sierras is our year-round water supply for families and farmers.

ElNino_Compare

Check out how our July water temperatures compare to the El Niño of 1997.  That year was warmer and more widespread from the waters of South America, but the two are fairly close.  An interesting note: Hurricane Dolores was able to keep its circulation as it moved closer to southern California because the warmer waters in North America kept it from completely dying.  It was Dolores, along with a monsoonal flow, that brought about record-setting rain July 18th and 19th.

2015_El Nino Hurricane

In any El Niño season we see an increase in Pacific hurricane activity and a decrease in the Atlantic.

2015_Drought Monitor

Even with the record-setting July rain, there is no recognizable dent in the drought.  We went from 47% exceptional drought to 46%.

2015_El Nino Effects

What is interesting for Los Angeles in particular is we also don’t get as many 90-degree days in the summer.

2015_What Is El Nino

El Niño is a warming of the water off the Pacific coast of South America.  El Niño’s are categorized by their strength, ranging from weak to very strong.  This past winter was a weak El Niño.  No two El Niños are alike.

Special thanks to David Biggar for the graphics and research.

El Nino & Our Winter Explained
February 16, 2010

 

Click image to view Tuesday’s webcast.

El Nino & Tornadoes
December 30, 2009

 

Chances of a tornado increase along the Gulf Coast with the current El Niño, a large-scale weather pattern associated with warming of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. As these waters warm, they force the development of a stronger-than-average jet stream emanating from the eastern Pacific and extending across the southern tier of the United States. The impact of this jet stream is most apparent from January through late March when it enhances severe thunderstorm and tornado potential over coastal states.

Nearly 80 percent of cool-season tornado deaths in Florida occur during El Niños, many after dark. This type of deadly nighttime tornado activity occurred as recently as February 2007 when an outbreak caused 21 fatalities and 76 injuries, and February 1998, when tornadoes killed 42 people and injured 259. Other recent deadly cold season tornado outbreaks have affected parts of Georgia, Texas, and Mississippi during El Niño years.

Having a NOAA Weather Radio at your bedside is the best way to know when a tornado is on the way. These small units receive a special tone that activates the radio alarm before broadcasting emergency announcements, such as a tornado warning issued by NOAA’s National Weather Service. This feature is especially crucial when severe storms or other events occur at night when most people are sound asleep.

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Past Weather Quiz Answers

El Nino & Winter
December 29, 2009

The South gets more than normal rainfall during El Niño years and less than normal rainfall during La Niña years when the colder waters in the eastern Pacific cause the Pacific storm track to shift north and miss us. During El Niño, not only does the storm track head right for us, it is even stronger than it is during the La Niña phase. Another effect of El Niño is cooler than normal winters in the South from about Texas eastward.

View a schematic diagram of how El Niño and La Niña events affect wintertime rainfall and temperature:
http://www.earthgauge.net/climate-facts-image-library#5

For more information on El Niño, including seasonal forecasts by region, visit: http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/

Learn more about what Northern Hemisphere storm tracks are and how they work:
http://www.earthgauge.net/wp-content/CF_Storm%20Tracks.pdf

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Past Weather Quiz Answers

El Nino & Our Hurricane Season
July 14, 2009

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Click image to view how how an El Nino weather pattern affects our hurricane season.