Wednesday, September 23, 2009

El Nino - All that it's cracked up to be?

*El Nino*

 The mere mention of this name conjures up images of heavy rains, flooding, and in many southern California areas, mudslides.  But is there any truth to the assertions that if El Nino pays our region a visit this winter and spring, statewide precipitation levels are sure to be substantially higher?  For many California interests, such as agriculture, certain water suppliers, and environmentalists, the hope is that the answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!"

Opinions vary widely on what the effectiveness of El Nino will be this coming year, if at all.  Some people believe that  any El Nino conditions in effect this year will be mild at best, resulting instead in what some have termed an "El Fizzle" or "El Wimpo".  Others have pinned their hopes on high levels of rain this year, and see El Nino as the way in which reservoirs will be replenished and the three-year drought will be eliminated. 

So what does the data indicate?  During the last six "El Nino" cycles, three cycles  have produced below-average precipitation levels, while the other three cycles produced above-average precipitation levels.  This would seem to indicate that there is little correlation between El Nino weather conditions and the amount of precipitation that falls in California.  That doesn't mean there isn't any correlation, just that it is hard to make any substantial connections between the two variables, without knowing more information, such as the strengths of the specific El Nino events. 

So will this year's El Nino be a monster or will it turn into another El Wimpo?  Regardless of what different people say, we're just gonna have to stick around and find out. 

Oh, and in the meantime, conservation continues to be vital.  We cannot bank our hopes on a unpredictable weather event that may or may not improve our water supply situaiton.  Conservation is currently the ONLY tool we have that we KNOW is effective. 

Keep up the great work Long Beach.

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