November 20, 2023 – California
Meteorologists are sounding the alarm as strong El Niño conditions are anticipated to bring significant wetness to California, potentially beginning as early as next month and lasting through spring. Climate scientist Daniel Swain warns that the current El Niño event is intensifying and could transform into a “super” El Niño in the coming months.
El Niño, a phase in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation phenomenon, weakens trade winds and pushes warm Pacific Ocean water toward the Americas. While Northern U.S. regions usually experience drier and warmer conditions during El Niño, the South, including California, faces increased flooding.
Swain notes that this year’s El Niño has already grown strong and is likely to become even more potent. Although it may not be the strongest on record, it has the potential to rank among the top 10. While most seasonal models predict a wetter-than-average winter in California, European forecasts suggest a weaker likelihood of such conditions.
The California Office of Emergency Services is urging Southern Californians to prepare for potential winter weather, given the increased chance of precipitation. Fortunately, as of early November, the state was entirely drought-free, with only six counties receiving an “abnormally dry” classification.
A recent analysis from NASA warns that if a strong El Niño develops, western coastal cities could face increased high-tide flooding, potentially causing up to five instances of “10-year flood events” in some cities. The study emphasizes the complex relationship between El Niño and precipitation, with climate change also playing a role.
Water expert Jay Lund assures that California is well-prepared for potential floods this winter. However, he suggests a long-term solution involves moving people out of flood-prone areas rather than relying solely on flood control infrastructure. Lund acknowledges that although the state should be well-set for the winter, residents should remain vigilant and adaptable to changing water dynamics.
As California braces for the potential impacts of El Niño, the intricate dance between climate patterns and human response unfolds, underscoring the need for both preparation and forward-thinking strategies in the face of dynamic weather conditions.