This year’s hopes for a drought-busting winter have been doused and time is running out: El Nino is winding down.
“It was different from the last two big El Ninos, which I think definitely counts as a surprise,” San Jose State University professor Alison Bridger said, sighing.
The meteorologist and climate scientists says there has been a large amount of cooling in the ocean, which is a key indicator El Nino is dying out.
“Six months ago we were asking, which is going to win: climate change or an El Nino? For us, it’s a wash in Northern California. For Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, you could say climate change has won out.”
Talks of a ‘Godzilla’ El Nino only seemed to get people’s hopes up.
“We all cringed at that term,” NBC Bay Area meteorologist Anthony Slaughter said. “Everyone on our team knew we were going to get closer to average in terms of our rainfall.”
Slaughter says the warm El Nino waters were there, but the weather patterns just didn’t quite pan out for some areas.
“Say you were to roll a ball down a hill, you roll that ball down the hill 20 times. It’s not going to go the same way every time. It’s going to go this way, it’s going to go that way. That’s kind of how storms work,” Slaughter said.
“It is a ‘Godzilla’ El Nino in the way it’s impacted the sub tropics. But the way it has impacted rainfall has been a little disappointing,” Bridger said.
Bridger says meteorologists can forecast up to 10 days in advance very well, but it is difficult to forecast months out.
In San Jose this year and last year, there was about 14 inches of rain, which is average, according to Bridger. The difference: snow in the Sierra this year, and there’s enough to help raise reservoir levels.
However, Bridger is concerned about the future: “Maybe we need a Godzilla El Nino in order to get average rainfall, which is a very frightening prospect.”
She says climate scientists expect more dry years in the future.
Meanwhile, now that El Nino is done, will La Nina – an exceptionally dry weather pattern marked by cooler ocean waters – arrive?
“Right now, it’s a toss-up,” Slaughter said, explaining water temperatures are currently neutral.
He says we should have a better idea by June.