What to expect when you’re expecting El Niño

jetstream-elnino-hcn.jpgCredit for the headline to the High Country News, which notes that "with each passing day it seems more certain: 2014 is going to be an El Niño year, and probably a big one." We have reported that already. So what could El Niño mean for us in California? From the site's The Goat Blog:

First, a quick primer on the science behind The Niño. In normal years, prevailing winds in the Pacific Ocean push warm water to the west, toward Indonesia, leaving space for deeper cold water to rise off the coast of South America. When those trade winds slacken or about-face – a phenomenon that appears to be occurring right now – fasten your seat belts and prepare for a bumpy El Niño ride. The reversed winds drive warm waters eastward and up toward the ocean’s surface, where they come into contact with the atmosphere, increase air temperatures, and send global weather patterns haywire, generating storms, droughts, and heat waves. Voila – you’re a meteorologist!...

Every El Niño is different, of course, and extrapolating from previous events involves a whole lot of semi-educated guesswork. As some sage once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” With that caveat out of the way, let’s comb through the historic record to understand what havoc the coming disturbance might wreak upon the American West.


California: If there’s one faction sure to welcome El Niño with open arms, it’s California farmers, who have spent the last year locked in the mother of all droughts. El Niño should provide some welcome relief: During past events, the jetstream has migrated south into California, bearing ample rain. In fact, Cali could go straight from drought to flood, as torrential storms in 1998 destroyed homes and forced the evacuation of towns. At least sport fishermen will be satisfied: the warming Pacific conveys exotic gamefish to the California coast.

Also from High Country News, a provocative piece says that California and other parched western states continue to export precious water to Asia in the form of alfalfa grown here.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Garcetti on national stage: Sterling 'doesn't represent my city' (video)
What to expect when you’re expecting El Niño
Mystery LAX disruption traced to legendary old spy plane
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Efrem Zimbalist Jr., actor who helped make Sunset Strip famous was 95
Recent Pacific stories on LA Observed:
What to expect when you’re expecting El Niño
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Gotta love the Pacific Ocean

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