Still waiting for a monster El Niño storm? Forget it


Remember those monstrous storms that bore down on Southern California this year courtesy of El Niño, and how they caused mudslides, mass flooding and general pandemonium on the freeways?

Neither do we.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared El Niño, the climate pattern that can bring powerful rains to the region, over – and after a rather anemic showing.

“We’re sticking a fork in this El Niño and calling it done,” NOAA said in a statement. “The king is dead!”


Though the ocean-borne El Niño helped conjure strong rain and snow in Northern California, it did very little in this regard for the Los Angeles area. From October 1 to midnight Wednesday, downtown L.A. had 6.88 inches of rain. That was even less than the 7.71 inches that fell during the same stretch the year before.

The average rainfall in downtown L.A. during that period is 14.59 inches.

“We’re still in an extreme drought situation … for Southern California,” said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Southern California would need about three years of substantially above-normal rainfall – as much as 10 inches each year – to climb out of that situation, Seto said. And nothing in L.A.’s recent history would suggest that that is going to happen.

“The last five years we’ve been getting half of the normal rainfall,” Seto said.

Hopes had been high that El Niño would be a force in Southern California this year. February was expected to be one of the wettest on record. Instead, by one measure at least, it became the hottest. Many weather experts said the conditions in the Pacific appeared similar to the El Niño of 1997-98, which dumped double the average amount of rain in Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Instead, the amount of warm water under the surface was less this time around and the atmospheric response was generally weaker.

“In short … no two El Niños are alike,” the NOAA said.

The National Weather Service said it now appears that come the late fall and winter, Southern California could be in the grip of La Niña, which could bring drier-than-average conditions. And the summer is expected to have above-normal temperatures, Seto said.

“Everybody that was looking at it was expecting a ‘Godzilla’ El Niño,” he said. “But nature has its way.”

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