El Niño ‘Uncertainty’

November 20, 2015

CC_El_NinoOvercast coupled with a moist ground fog this early Friday on California’s north coast, and we’re reportedly to be dry through the weekend, the next decent storm forecast for late Monday, maybe Tuesday morning and supposedly could carry some weather weight.
Snow levels may drop as low as 1,500 feet on Tuesday. According to a NWS travel-warning for next week, expectations on storm intensity flow with the wind as ‘Uncertainty still exists in the exact track of the storm system…
An apt phrase for this whole season.

Especially under the influence of  8 million square miles of overheated Pacific Ocean.

(Illustration: El Niño last August, via NOAA, found here).

The latest version of an El Niño event is turning into a biggie — a couple of days ago, the NOAA reported: ‘Weekly measurements of temperatures in the central Pacific ocean are now 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the very first time in the quarter century that these measurements have been taken.’
Yet there’s that ‘uncertainty‘ present in the forecasts. NOAA Climate Prediction Center meteorologist Michelle L’Heureux, back in July: ‘“While a short-term (daily or weekly) number might be striking, it shouldn’t be used as an indicator of El Niño strength unless it is carefully placed into a larger context.”

Despite the hesitation, predictions are seemingly showing a good-chance for heavy precipitation this season — up here in Northern California, it’s now considered a more than a 40 percent chance of above-normal rainfall, up from a more than 33 percent chance reported last month.
Southward, the intensity grows — San Francisco stands at a 50 percent wetter-than-average winter, up from an earlier 40 percent probability. LA still above 60 percent.
A good Q&A from the LA Times this morning on the approaching event — noteworthy:

Not only are we getting closer to winter, but El Niño is maintaining its strength and even getting stronger, said Matthew Rosencrans, head of operations for the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.
“From the latest observation, it’s still on an upward trend,” he said, “not even topping out right now.”

The pool of warm water in the Pacific Ocean west of Peru is huge and very deep.
“There’s been a tremendous distribution of heat, and that is definitely not going away” anytime soon, said Bill Patzert, climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
“I’m quite optimistic that the entire state is going to get hosed.”

“It’s about 8 million square miles of overheated ocean,” Patzert said. “The United States is only 3 million square miles. So this is about two and a half times the size of the continental United States.
“This thing is pumping moisture out of the overheated ocean into the atmosphere above,” which of course means it’s having a huge impact and rearranging all the pieces on the motherboard across the planet.”

In order to handle the drought, we need rain, mostly snow, to really drench us up here. How does that look?

No one has a good answer for this.
The mid-elevation mountains of Northern California are very important to the state’s water supply, and it’s important that precipitation comes as snow, not rain.
Too much rain all at once will force excess water to be flushed out to sea to prevent dams from being overwhelmed.
But if snow falls, it can melt slowly in the spring and summer, gently replenishing reservoirs.
Scientists generally agree that more precipitation is likely in these mid-elevation mountains. But whether it’ll fall as snow or rain isn’t known.

Also of note, in the past El Niño usually didn’t get real serious until after the new year, so the doing is in the timing.

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