El Niño could bring drought relief to California:

California is likely to experience a very strong El Niño during Autumn and Winter of 2015 and 2016, which is great news for those in drought stricken areas. But, at this stage, it is unlikely to completely rectify the effects of the drought completely.

What is an El Niño anyway?

el nino 2015An El Niño is a temporary change in the climate pattern of the Pacific Ocean, on the west coast of Peru, near the equator. It occurs every few years, and can drastically alter the world’s climate. The water in this area warms up by several degrees, and thunderstorms in this area moves eastward.

Normally, the warmest water is in the far west of the Pacific Ocean, forming thunderstorms. When it’s an El Niño year, the warm water moves eastward across the Pacific Ocean towards the west coast of the United States, to California and in the southern states.

Will an El Niño bring rain to California?

el nino mapThere’s a high chance this year’s El Niño will bring heavy rain this winter and help to ease drought conditions, particularly in southern California. However, most of the state’s water supply is collected and stored in giant reserviors north of San Francisco.

Ideally, the El Niño would be strong enough to reach the northern tip of the state with heavy rain and snow. With both the snow melting off the top of the mountains and the heavy rain, the reserviors should start to be replenished.

What’s the latest El Niño doing?

The two strongest El Niños in 1982 and 1997 resulted in persistent storms battering the state. On July 15th of this year, the Pacific Ocean was recorded as 3 degress above average, similar to the temperature recorded around the same date in 1997, also 3 degrees above average.

Will this El Niño bring an end to the drought?

This El Niño needs to be really big to be able to reach Northern California and replenish the reservoirs. Although its not yet not strong enough to make any significant impact in that area, very strong El Niños can sometimes bring rain across the entire state.

This El Niño is not yet considered to be able to end the drought completely, but the heavy rain it will bring will certainly provide some relief.

Although it’s too early to tell at this stage, there is a chance the ocean temperatures could continue to rise, and therefore bring a more powerful El Niño and aid the droughts even further.

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