SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – It’s almost time: After more than a year of predictions, measurements, and comparisons, the impact of the strongest El Niño on record is about to be felt in California. By all accounts, it’s going pack quite a punch.
But first a little bit of history. Two of the wettest winters in the past 100 years here in the Golden State have one thing in common. Both happened during a “very strong” El Niño. As of right now, the El Niño we expect to hit our shores is predicated to be the strongest in modern history.
So what do the El Niño numbers mean for the state? There are four points to remember when it comes to El Niño 2016.
1. It will likely start to rain more in December.
But the rain totals won’t be anywhere close to what we had last year in 2014.
Back then, it rained more than three inches on December 11th alone. And the month ended in double-digits in San Francisco. The other two Decembers in “very strong” El Niño events were markedly drier. Both 1982 and 1997 saw less than three inches of rain for the whole month.
In January that is likely to change, as the El Niño pattern of super charged subtropical jet streams gets going.
Translation? Both past history and future predictions say the start of 2016 will be wet, extremely wet.
2. Plan on a lot of rain in January and February.
If you lived in the Bay Area in 1998, you’ll likely remember the first two months of that year, when 27 inches of rain fell. That’s triple what we typically get. If anything close to that happens again, it’ll be quite interesting for the biggest sporting event on earth, which happens February 7th in Santa Clara. Soggy super bowl anyone?
3. El Niño’s rains may not end until just before next summer.
Lost in all the talk about winter is what will happen next spring. Most long-range computer forecast models are calling for above-average rain, and mountain snow, well beyond February.
That’s what happened in the spring of 1983 and 1998. Those years saw above-average snow and rain well into spring.
4. It’s important to note that none of this is a guarantee.
That’s just not how weather works. But all signs point to a very wet winter, starting very soon.