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Friday, September 11, 2015

What Does This Year's "Monster" El Niño Have in Store for Us?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 11:28 AM

click to enlarge JIM KILLOCK/FLICKR
  • Jim Killock/Flickr

The Kid is on its way. El Niño, the blockbuster storm system weather event that occasionally wreaks havoc in California, unleashing everything from torrential floods to landslides, is on track to be a “monster” this year.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center announced yesterday there’s a 95 percent chance El Niño will continue through the winter, meaning the state will see increased rainfall. But will it rival the 1997/98 El Niño (one of San Francisco’s wettest seasons ever)?

Maybe.

Pacific Ocean temps are higher now than they’ve been since the end of the 97/98 season, which suggests a hell of a storm is brewing. “The present El Niño is already one of the strongest on record,” Stanford climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Times. He added that there’s a higher risk of flooding and landslides as a result.

But for this year’s storm to match, let alone exceed, the “Godzilla” storm of 97/98, “the east-to-west trade winds of the Pacific Ocean along the equator need to dramatically collapse,” according to the Times. And since that hasn’t happened yet, it’s hard to know just how damaging this storm will be.

It’s also unlikely even a megawatt storm will bring enough rain to ease California’s four-year drought. In fact, the drought’s aftermath of ash debris and dead trees could make for worse storm conditions, prompting mudslides across the state.

"[California's] wettest El Niño, in 1983, dropped nine times the annual average rainfall. The state would need at least that much to bring its reservoirs back to normal," Wired reminds us.

The better-them-than-us news for the Bay Area is that southern California will probably bear the brunt of El Niño’s fury. Nothing is guaranteed, except San Francisco will almost certainly see more rainy days in the coming months. 

But the season is still early, the storm is still developing, and nobody knows where the winds may take us — literally.

Correction: As a Facebook comment pointed out, El Niño isn't a "storm system," but a series of complex, interconnected climatic changes that often includes storm systems.


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Jeremy Lybarger

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