California has been in the worst drought for the past three years since 1987 which lasted until 1992. According to scientists, the lack of rainfall in the region is due to a high ridge atmospheric pressure off the West Coast that is nearly 2,000 miles long, that has been preventing winter rain from coming to California. However, this could change in the fall, and Californians might expect some rainfall and a wet winter.
Scientists have been paying attention to a phenomenon called El Niño,” which if it is strong enough will bring storms and finally rain to the West. El Niño, which means the little boy in Spanish, was first recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America when they noticed warmer ocean waters towards the end of the year. It was given the name El Niño after baby Jesus, as this phenomenon appeared during Christmas time. El Niño affects the West Coast by bringing heavier than normal rain during the winter months and warmer water in the Pacific Ocean. This particular phenomenon happens every two to seven years. Since 1950, El Niño has brought mostly moderate whether changes affecting California, there has only been few severe weather changes due to this phenomenon. The last El Niño occurrence happened in 2009-2010.
In California, an underwater glider is monitoring the ocean off the coast of Dana Point for this event, and according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, there is an 80 percent chance that this fall California may be experiencing heavier rain due to El Niño. However, if only slight changes in temperatures occur in the Pacific Ocean, El Niño may not bring as much rain as it is needed in California. Scientists are still waiting on atmospheric changes to happen, in order to measure how strong this phenomenon will be.
Changes in the weather will also affect variations in fish that are usually caught in the winter months, as the water is usually cooler this time of the year. Californians might be catching yellowtail, dorado and yellowfin tuna due to the warmer waters, but it will affect catching squid, as it might go to deeper, cooler waters.
So far scientists say that Southern California might only see moderate climate changes from El Niño, making water conservation still a priority. The major reservoirs in Shasta, Oroville and San Luis near Los Banos are 30 to 40 percent of its normal capacity, and Governor Jerry Brown has urged California residents to reduce their water usage, as counties and water districts have already enforced mandatory cutbacks. Sacramento for example, as part of the Stage 2 Water Shortage Contingency Plan, has specific regulations for when residents can water their lawns and wash their cars, limiting their usage to only a few hours, twice a week. The next update on El Niño will be July 10, as scientists continue to monitor the water temperature in the Pacific Ocean for any more changes that might bring some wet weather to California this winter.
By Marcia Villavicencio