DISASTERS: FIRE : UNITED STATES: STATES: CALIFORNIA : ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE : DISASTERS: DROUGHT: California Drought: El Ni Keeps Growing, But No Guarantee the Drought Will End

David P. Dillard
 

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DISASTERS: FIRE :

UNITED STATES: STATES: CALIFORNIA :

ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE :

DISASTERS: DROUGHT:

California Drought: El Ni Keeps Growing,
But No Guarantee the Drought Will End

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California Drought: El Ni Keeps Growing,
But No Guarantee the Drought Will End

By Paul Rogers

Posted: 08/13/2015 06:00:00 AM PDT

San Jose Mercury

Science and Environment

http://www.mercurynews.com/drought/ci_28633768/ california-drought-el-nino-keeps-growing-new-report

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A shorter URL for the above link:

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http://tinyurl.com/pkgvdv9

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With wildfires raging and three months to go before the start of the winter rainy season, drought-stricken California received promising news Thursday: El Ni conditions in the Pacific Ocean continue to gain momentum, increasing with every week the chances of desperately needed wet winter weather on the West Coast.

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"We are predicting this El Ni could be among the strongest El Nis in the historical record dating back to 1950," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

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The surface temperature of Pacific Ocean waters along the equator off Peru is now 3.42 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the historic average, the highest reading ever recorded in early August. And significant winds continue to blow from the west, pushing the warm water toward North America and South America -- both classic signals of a strong El Ni.

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But drought-weary Californians may not want to bet the rent just yet that they'll be watering lush green lawns next summer.

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Even though California has historically seen wet winters during strong El Ni events like the one now underway, experts say, there are at least four or five major scenarios in which this El Ni could fail to end the state's drought.

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What could go wrong?

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First, big storms could develop, but mostly hit Southern California, missing Northern California. Last month, San Diego and Los Angeles broke records for the wettest July ever, and a highway bridge washed out in a flash flood on Interstate 10 east of Palm Springs, while the Bay Area remained mostly sunny. The disparity is a problem for California's water supply, because many of the state's most important reservoirs are in the north, from Shasta to Oroville to Folsom. To fill up, they need lots of water.

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"If we get a lot of rain, but it doesn't get north of Interstate 80, it won't put as big a dent in the drought," said Jan Null, a Saratoga meteorologist.

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A second pitfall could come if big El Ni storms arrive, but they are too warm to deliver a large Sierra snowpack, or if record warm temperatures like California experienced last spring melt what mountain snow does arrive.

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The Sierra snowpack is a giant bank of water in good years, holding roughly a third of the state's water supply, then releasing it during the spring and summer months as it melts. Torrential warm winter storms will help fill dams, but much of the water could run off to the ocean, particularly if dams are nearing full capacity at the time. And those kinds of storms are more likely to cause flooding and mudslides.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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