TIMES El Niño: What to Know.

A number of experts chimed in to explain El Niño and how it may effect the drought.

What is El Niño?

El Niño is part of the tropical Pacific climate pattern. And occurs do to weakening near-surface easterly winds that allow surface waters to warm. oceanographer and instructor at Saddleback College, Kevin Nguyen explains that the development of this storm involves a mass of warm growing surface water that expands over the cooler current trapping oxygen underneath.

Will it fix the drought?

“It will alleviate the drought but unless it causes a flood like the one we had in Texas, it won’t be the cure,” Nguyen said. “The horrible thing about environmentalist trying to collect water is that rain water is drinkable but overtime it’s proven to be unsanitary.”

How does this work?

According to Horticulturist, Robert Farnsworth, in nature, a rainy El Niño would have a big impact on replenishing the water supply in our reservoirs and groundwater aquifers. But we have created a concrete and asphalt jungle. Most California urban waterways are paved. They send storm water straight out to the ocean. A rainy year is a very bad excuse for people to take long showers and return to normal. Regardless of the predicted strong El Niño, we must continue to rip out our lawns and wash our cars less.

“I have heard that it would take Lake Mead 20 years to fill to its desired capacity, even if we ceased withdrawals immediately,” Farnsworth said.

A rainy season will help, but it certainly does not allow us to abandon needed lifestyle changes. A strong El Niño will wash a lot of dog shit and other toxins into the ocean that have accumulated in the absence of rain. A strong El Niño will flood paved highways and cause some serious carnage for those who built on a slope, but due to ill-informed storm water management strategies of the past, we won’t reap the potential benefit nature intends. I hope people stay focused on a commitment to protect this vital resource, rather than thinking the drought problem is over.

Galoshes or flip-flops?

This may be the year to invest in Galoshes (rain boots) or just put on a pair of beachy flip-flops while wearing a bathing suit all day. It’s going to get wet. NOAA predicts an increase of 85 to 95 percent chance rain during storm months.

How long will El Niño last?

“It physically stratifies the water separating the warm from the cold and happens very slowly – and 16 to 18 month cycle,” Nguyen said.