A fourth year of drought may be interrupted this fall and winter. The National Weather Service is forecasting “a significant and strengthening El Niño.” But while relief is expected, the water deficits of the last four years will not be overcome with one extremely wet winter.
On Aug. 13, NWS predicted a 90 percent chance this El Niño will continue through the winter and even an 85 percent chance that its effects will continue into spring 2016, which is 5 percent greater than the previous forecast.
While conditions could still change, several forecasters say the strength will depend on the fall tradewinds. Nevertheless, the latest NWS Climate Prediction Center reported, “all multi-model averages predict a strong event at its peak in late fall/early winter.”
“It’s still too early to say exactly how El Niño will influence California’s upcoming winter, though it still appears that there’s a significantly increased chance of a wetter-than-average winter,” said Daniel Swain, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University.
This El Niño is already being labeled as a “Bruce Lee” or “Godzilla” event, but it will still be months before its weather results are known. However, as of early August, the ocean measurements appear to be similar to the summer of 1997, which brought the last great wet winter to Southern California.
That year, the Idyllwild Fire Station recorded more than 30 inches of rain from November through February and more than 30 inches of snowfall.
“Of shorter-term interest: Extremely warm near-shore, sea-surface temperatures off the Mexican and California coasts will continue to present an increased potential for East Pacific tropical remnant events through September and possibly October,” Swain added.