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Is El Niño Responsible for Two Deaths in California From Weekend Storms?

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 5.38.21 PMThere is no doubt we are in a strong El Niño Pattern in the Equatorial Pacific but stating that a weather phenomenon is directly responsible for the unfortunate deaths from a recent storm in California is…well, an ambiguous statement to say the least. Phenomenon is defined as fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question, and in the case of ENSO there is still a lot of variables to consider, and even more so being studied by scientists. Having said that, we can’t possibly directly relate any storm to El Niño until we have collected and compiled all the data and that can be analyzed altogether. It’s almost like we have to think back to our College days. El Niño is more the entire semester and these individual storms are correlated to the many classes you have in one semester. Or better yet, El Niño is never the sole driver of our weather patterns but more so an added component as day to day weather variability still plays a part in the path of where these storms track.

Yes, some of the effects of El Niño so far have been exceptionally noticeable and can certainly be related to this El Niño Pattern we are in. El Niño’s abnormally warm sea surface temperatures leading up the Fall/Winter 2015 have had a domino effect on our weather here in the United States. Weather Headlines such as “Record Breaking Heat” as far north as the Dakotas in the heart of Winter to even talking 60’s for temperature highs the week leading up to Christmas in Massachusetts was odd to many folks to say the least and it wasn’t an isolated event either. We’ve consistently seen more milder air in place or above average temperatures throughout this winter season.

When it comes to the atmospheric moisture available, its a bit of a different story. This pattern has contributed to moisture rich storms for the western half of the country, yes, but primarily in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California; however, Southern California has seen a few good storms but not as much as many forecasters and state climatologists had hoped with such a strong El Niño in place. We still have the Spring to get through and things could still change.

Again, El Niño can never be directly responsible for our atmospheric weather patterns. Indirectly, yes In some cases but as with all things science, there are many other variables to consider (i.e. blocking patterns, forcing from climate change as well as many other factors that all work in congruence with El Niño).

El Nino is forecast to last through Spring 2016 and remain relatively strong. So with that said, the jury is still out on how this year’s El Nino impacts will go down in the record books. Only time will tell.


(Vido: 643 Million gallons of Los Angeles rain captured since Saturday, enough for 15,784 people for one year El Niño)

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Merry Matthews

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