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Thu Jul 30, 2015, 05:02 PM

El Niño vs. the Blob: Here's Why California's Drought Probably Won't End Anytime Soon

Cross posted in Environment and Energy

California could be in for a wetter-than-normal winter, thanks to the mysterious meteorological phenomenon known as El Niño. Weather scientists have been watching El Niño get stronger throughout this year and think it could match or surpass the strongest on record, back in 1997. What does this mean for long-suffering California and its interminable drought? Let us explain.

What the heck is El Niño again?

Normally, equatorial winds in the Pacific Ocean blow toward the west and push warm surface water in that direction. El Niño—"the child," named in reference to Jesus by Spanish-speaking fishermen from South America who noticed, starting centuries ago, unusual weather around Christmas-time—happens every few years when those winds die down or diminish, leaving more warm water pooled along the equator off the coast of South America.

That's been happening this year; the longer the wind pattern remains unusual, the more the eastern Pacific warms up. Here's a map of ocean temperature anomalies (that is, variations from the long-term average) from late June. Notice the band of red and white (white is the hottest) in the center of the Pacific and the cooler-than-usual water off Southeast Asia? That's El Niño:

(Side note: Satellite maps like these are a prime example of the kind of research GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz wants to block NASA from conducting.) Now check out the same reading from last week. It's gotten stronger:


That trend is probably going to continue throughout this year, said Daniel Swain, an atmospheric scientist at Stanford University.

"It hasn't peaked yet, and it's already quite strong," he said.......

article at: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/sorry-california-el-nino-wont-save-you-drought

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