“El Nino slow to start, fast to finish…”

… So says a respected climatologist from the JPL in Pasadena.

In January, well above normal amounts of rain fell in most Central Coast locations. My records indicate 1/31/98 rain totals were 41.7″ and 1/31/16 rain totals were 25.75″.

John Lindsey, SLO forecaster writes: “By the end of January, most of the local weather forecasters, including myself, felt confident that the wet El Niño gravy train pattern would continue.

However — in the heart of our rainfall season, no less — the weather pattern reverted to one we’ve seen over the last four years of drought, when a strong ridge of high pressure settled over the West Coast, forcing the storm track northward. Consequently, this condition created persistent Santa Lucia (offshore) winds, near or record-breaking warmth, and dry and clear skies despite this year’s record-breaking El Niño event….

Heavy rains may be on the way, and here’s why.

“It’s looking likely that we will whiplash from a weather pattern that resembles July to one that looks like March,” William Patzert, a respected climatologist with Caltech’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, told me over the phone Friday.

Dr. Patzert suggests the current El Niño might still be too big for Southern California, and the inland areas to receive heavy rain. The 1997-98 very strong El Niño event peaked in November and by February 1998 had shrunk to a much smaller size along the Eastern Pacific. This year’s El Niño event peaked much later — in fact, just last month.

His hypothesis states that the southern branch of the jet stream will shift southward later this month and take a position over Southern California. That will allow the storm door to swing open for the later part of February, March and into April for the central and southern parts of the state. Historically, the 1997-98 El Niño, along with the 1982-83 winter, produced its heaviest rainfall in the February-through-March timeframe, as well. Both of these El Niños were late bloomers.”

Critical  words in these statements are “may” and “hypothetical.” Weather forecasting, while substantially improved, is still as much of an art as it is a science. John Lindsey predicts the next bout of rain to begin Wednesday night. Another forecaster I hear predicts Thursday and Friday. Whenever it starts, while the summer-like weather has been great, it’s time for February to deliver.


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