By Patrick Ramsay
The infamous weather pattern, El Niño, meaning “the child” in Spanish, first got its name because it was discovered on Christmas. This year, El Niño is bringing a much needed gift to Californians: rain. We aren’t talking about a light drizzle either, we’re talking about a weather pattern so epic, it has earned the title “Godzilla.” Essentially, it is the slight warming of the Pacific Ocean causing a change in the weather patterns every few years. A powerful El Niño is described by a 1.5 degree Celsius change, but this year we were seeing temperatures in the Pacific already 3 degrees C above normal by September.
California has been suffering from a drought for the last four years and will be the greatest beneficiary of this year’s El Niño. We’re already seeing signs of relief from the drought in the Sierra Nevada snowpack. Roughly 30 percent of California’s water supply comes from the runoff of this snowpack. During the first manual survey of the winter snowpack, officials with the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) say it’s currently at 136 percent of normal. Around the same time last year, the snowpack was only at 45 percent of the historical average, so officials with the DWR are saying it’s a very promising sign.
1997 El Niño Twins
According to NASA, this year’s El Niño bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the powerful 1997 El Niño, and it’s continuing to grow. Forecasters expect California to start seeing the effects of Godzilla El Niño in early 2016. Bill Patzert, Climatologist for Jet Propulsion Laboratories, said “Reservoir levels have fallen to record or near-record lows, while groundwater tables have dropped dangerously in many areas. Now we’re preparing to see the flip side of nature’s water cycle — the arrival of steady, heavy rains and snowfall.”
Side Effects of Godzilla El Niño
In 1997, the strong El Niño brought twice the average amount of rainfall to Southern California. While the El Niño weather cycle brings watery relief to the drought-stricken state of California, it has also been known to bring mudslides, floods, high winds, lightning strikes and high surfs along with it. How are you preparing for Godzilla El Niño’s intensity?