Recently, the climatologists have announced the official return of El Niño, following a hiatus of full five years. However, the Pacific Ocean circulation phenomenon associated with it is not expected to provide much relief to the drought afflicted California and the western U.S. Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated “Unfortunately, this El Niño is likely too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California, as California’s rainy season is winding down.”
NOAA, which runs the National Weather Service, has made an announcement regarding the detection of a weak “El Niño” phase in the cyclical oscillation of sea water temperature and atmospheric pressure in the tropical Pacific. Although in the previous years, El Niño helped in bringing more moisture towards Southern California, its influence on regional weather has always been a subject of debate.
According to Halpert, Pacific Coast residents experienced more storms in December and January but most of these couldn’t contribute much to the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and other western ranges, which is the most critical element of long term water supply. Halpert commented “This past year, December was very wet, but it was also very warm. So the snow levels were very high and it really didn’t help.” The agency reported that the persistence of El Niño into the summer has a 50%-60% chance.
Halpert stated “If you want to look for hope, maybe there’s some hope that this will persist and impact the next rainy season, but I suspect it’s too late to do much for you this year.” NOAA was monitoring the rising ocean surface temperatures in areas of the equatorial Pacific for months, which is an indicator of the El Niño Southern Oscillation. However, it was not accompanied by increased convection in the lower atmosphere, typically spawning thunderstorms and weakening surface trade winds.
A strong El Niño often leads to above-average rainfall across Mexico and the southern U.S., along with parts of the Midwest and New England. According to the agency, some localized precipitation anomalies were observed during the early winter, including the Northeast’s snowstorms, but they didn’t have the characteristics of an El Niño effect.