Monday, March 14, 2016

El Niño Less Than Perfect!

Relentless Surf Pounds California Coast
As our winter slides to a conclusion it's worth a look at the impact El Niño has had on the San Francisco Bay Area with respect to the drought, Climate Change and coastal erosion!

After 3-4 years of below precipitation the rains of 2015-16 has brought the SF bay Area back to more normal conditions! As of March 14, 2016 the annual precipitation is normal or above for many Bay Area locations. The rains started seriously in December and continued into January, however February was close to totally dry and put a large damper on the El Niño effect. Fortunately March has given  El Niño new life in the early going but looking at future projections, this may be indeed the swan song for  El Niño 2015-16. The consensus seems to be  El Niño did not live up to the initial hype and fell short of the 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Niños.

I'm pretty much convinced that our 4 year drought is not a ephemeral aberration but rather an indication of our future climate as a result of human caused Climate Change. There has been droughts in the past and I've lived thru a fairly intense drought in the 1970's. However the difference is significant in that the current climate is warmer and more humid than in the past and seems inclined on staying this way. This dry February was an eye opener for anybody who believes we are likely to return to our normal climate. Remember the (RRR)  Ridiculously Resilient Ridge that has been parking it's self in our neighborhood and chasing all the storms north? That reappeared in February and dried the month out and elevated some temperatures into record territory!  It looks now like the rest of March will follow the same RRR pattern and thus El Niño fades into memory! NASA is reporting that February had global record-breaking temperatures by a stunning margin and warned of a 'climate emergency'.  In summary El Niño has produced welcome rain back into more normal range, however it did not generate quantities that the 1997-98 season produced. History tells us that a normal rainfall year is not dependent on  El Niño but after 4 drought years and finally a significant El Niño year and yet the rain fall is just average! So if we are now 15 years away from the next  El Niño does that mean we are looking at 15 years of sub-par rain, scary thought!

A remarkable companion to El Niño is the unusually high surf that has been pounding the California coast all winter.  The surf has been eroding the coast in spectacular fashion from Pacifica where 2 apartment buildings have been demolished, and in Miramar and Surfers Beach which are under going emergency repairs in an attempt to save the infrastructure.  In my next blog I will go into detail on coastal erosion and the effects of high surf!

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