The past few weeks in LA has been really, really hot, and every rainy day feels like Christmas, or New Years, or whichever holiday you choose to celebrate or abstain from (as long as it brings you joy). We’ve been hearing reports that El Niño is going to come on strong this winter, but today Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, gave the LA Times the official word: it's all happening.
“There’s no longer a possibility that El Niño wimps out at this point,” he said. “It’s too big to fail.”
While it's not actually set in stone, the likelihood of a rainy winter is looking good. According to the National Weather Service, Southern California now has more than a 60 percent chance of a wet winter, a 33 percent chance of a normal winter and less than a 7 percent chance of a dry winter.
Experts like Patzert can tell El Niño is picking up by looking at things like the change in direction of wind along the equator and rising ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Depending on those weather patterns, the rain that ordinarily dumps on Mexico and Central America could end up shifting north to Southern California.
While we do need the rain, El Niño can sometimes be extremely dangerous. The largest recorded El Niño was back in 1997-98, when heavy storms caused many parts of the coast to flood and homes in Laguna and Huntington to fall victim to vicious mudslides. That year reportedly racked up more than $500 million in damages and took 17 lives.
We'll keep our fingers crossed that everyone stays safe this winter, but in the meantime we have a lot to do until the storms arrive.