El Nino is gathering steam in the Pacific Ocean. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this week said they are leaning towards it being a strong event, the first really large Pacific storm to hit California since 1997-98.
“We can’t rule out a ’97-’98 type of event,” said Michelle L’Heureux, an NOAA forecaster. “This year we have the perspective of last year’s failed prediction of El Nino to temper the enthusiasm of the prediction in play this year. But there are exceptions, so even a stronger El Nino event is not a guarantee that there will be increased rainfall … we can only hope for the best.”
El Nino is a climate phenomenon that happens in the Pacific Ocean; it causes an atmospheric cascade (heavy rain coluds in the upper atmosphere) that can alter normal weather patterns across the globe. If the El Nino does become a strong event and stays that way through the winter, it could mean that California will finally see some healthy rains arrive, likely in mid-January 2016.
NOAA on Thursday called for a “better than 90 percent” chance that this event will stick around through the fall months, and an 85 percent chance that it will last through the winter. Forecasters also took their first stab this year at projecting the intensity of the event, with the odds right now favoring a strong El Nino.
“If California is lucky, we’ll see storms originating from the South Pacific (Australia, Indonesia) and also emanating from South America,” said Daniel Swain, an atmospheric science Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University. “We could easily see moist storms originating from both regions.”
Thanks to the advent of social media which can instantly transmit a photograph around the world, “drought shaming” is becoming a popular pastime in Southern California. Residents are reporting on their neighbors and often strangers who have been observed wasting water, suddenly turning these individuals into Hollywood’s latest “break-out” star—whether or not they seek the fame.
“Yeah, I’ll put your address out there. The world is watching a lot more,” said Tony Corcoran, a Los Angeles resident who admits he’s put up probably more than 100 videos of water wasters—complete with their addresses. Other people are tweeting out addresses and photos, using hashtags such as #DroughtShaming, while still more persons are snapping photos with smartphones and sending them directly to authorities.
Corcoran is among a legion of residents these days canvassing the communities of Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Newport Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, etc. looking for people wasting water. Corcoran stopped one afternoon recently in West Los Angeles and began lecturing a woman on her watering habits. She grew tired of the talk and turned the hose on him. In Beverly Hills, he was showing a reporter and photographer water running down the street in front of a mansion. The angry resident called the police and a squad car quickly arrived, but the officers took no action.
If you like avocados, you may have to pay a little more at the market. California avocado farmers are facing sky-high prices for water and must abide by mandatory cutbacks. This popular fruit may become all-but-impossible to grow, if the drought persists. Now these farmers are not planting the trees at the recommended 20 feet apart, but rather 10 feet apart because of the dearth of available water. The dense planting method hasn’t been implemented in many of the state 3,000 acres of avocado fields, but experts believe it may be a promising avenue for an industry desperately in need of help.