El Nino Likely To Return To Drought-Stricken California This Winter, Intensity Unknown

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – After some of the driest years on record in California, El Nino conditions are likely to return this upcoming winter. It is unclear if the amount of rain will be enough to help the state emerge from the drought.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that El Nino conditions are 80 percent likely to form this fall and winter. The intensity is not known, although a weak to moderate El Nino is most likely.

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Strong El Nino winters are, by far, the wettest. For example, Santa Rosa averages nearly two feet of rain during a strong El Nino year, and about a couple inches less during a moderate El Nino. Weak El Nino’s are actually below average.

Even if there is a wet winter, the lost water won’t be made up all at once. The ground has missed out on 30 inches of water over the last three years.

We need to be careful what we wish for, a winter that does erase a big chunk of our drought would likely include massive flooding. The El Nino winter of 1997-98 is still the stormiest in a generation.

Bottom Line: The exact impacts on the Bay Area are not known yet, but the likelihood of another record breaking dry year is now very low.

More from Paul Deanno

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