El Nino is here. Rather, “poquito” El Nino is here. It seems the vaunted weather pattern that brings with it coastal showers will be much weaker this year. Climatologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest its influence on weather patterns will likely be diminished. Researchers gave the conditions a 50- to 60-percent chance of lasting through the summer.
Scientists at NOAA have been waiting for nearly two years for a concentration of warming surface water in the Pacific Ocean to develop into an extended El Nino, but the latest iteration of the weather event will not be enough, they contend, to make up for the loss of precipitation during the usual rainy season in February and March.
“It’s unfortunate we can’t declare a weak El Nino,” said Michelle L’Hevreux, a forecaster with NOAA. L’Hevreux explained that because of its late arrival and the system’s weak connection between water and atmosphere, El Nino is unlikely to drive heavy rains toward the parched state. This weekend’s early heat wave throughout the Los Angeles Basin, she said, could be a predictor of spring and summer temperatures.
El Nino is a phenomenon known to happen every two or three years, where warmer ocean water in the western and central equatorial Pacific flows deeper than usual, preventing a “upwelling” or a vertical surge of cold water and enabling surface water to warm faster and more intensely. When this process becomes strong enough to begin influencing the atmosphere, wind directions and weather conditions, an El Nino is declared.
Because there is a shrinking supply of drinking water—brought on by storms such as El Nino”—residents, scientists and even politicians have been debating delination. They are trying to address the question: Is it possible to “de-salt” just a small portion of the Pacific Ocean to provide more fresh water for drinking, cooking, gardening and other uses? As the state enters its fourth year of drought, several cities are considering this solution: Huntington Beach, Monterey, Santa Barbara and some others are thinking about building desalination plants to the turn saltwater into potable water.
De-salting the coastline may seem like a feasible idea, but nature, physics and billions of dollars may influence another opinion. Desalination requires huge amounts of energy and that can be tough on the natural environment, particularly if the plant operates on fossil fuels. But sheer desperation for water—and lower energy bills—during the drought have found researchers looking around the world (ex. Spain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) to see how likely might it be for California to follow suit.