|Canyon mudflow in 2009|
NASA Climatologist: El Niño Has Arrived, Will Be ‘One Storm After Another Like a Conveyor Belt’ The National Weather Service’s latest forecast indicated that a powerful El Niño continued to strengthen in October, but a NASA climatologist said the effects likely won’t be felt in California until early next year.
In a report released Thursday, the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center stated the episode is already “strong” and “mature.”
“It’s official. El Niño’s here. It’s a done deal,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times. “So at this point, we’re just waiting for the impacts in California.”
Typically, he said, El Niño doesn’t peak in the state until the first three months of the year. But when it does, the drought-stricken state will likely be hit with “mudslides, heavy rainfall, one storm after another like a conveyor belt,” Patzert told the Times.
Though it has the potential to bring “extreme rainfall” to California, federal forecasters cautioned earlier this year that it may still not be enough to erase four years of drought in the state.
“Seasonal outlooks generally favor below average temperatures and above-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation over the northern tier of the United States,” the report stated.
Most models forecast that the current El Niño – predicted to rank among the three strongest episodes on record since 1950 — will continue through the Northern Hemisphere this winter.
Based on the averages of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific between August and October, the current event ranked second to the powerful 1997 El Niño, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Even though El Niño likely will not peak until at least next month, its effects have already been felt around the world for months, a NOAA blog post stated on Thursday.
Among recent events, it was credited with fueling Hurricane Patricia, which made landfall as a Category 5 storm last month and was among the strongest hurricanes ever recorded.
El Niños typically enhance the Pacific’s hurricane season, Emily Becker wrote in the post.
This year, there has already been 21 Category 4 or 5 storms, a record number for the region, Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University told NOAA. The previous record was 17, back in 1997.
Mammoth Mountain even credited the “Godzilla El Niño” for opening ahead of schedule this season. Northern and Central California was hit with nearly 3 feet of snow as a series of pre-winter storms blew through the Sierra Nevada mountains recently.
For now, experts are warning people to start preparing for the possibility of increased precipitation and other effects across the region.
“January and February are just around the corner. If you think you should make preparations, get off the couch and do it now. These storms are imminent,” said Patzert, who predicted the possibility of a “Godzilla El Niño” back in August.
“El Niño is here. And it is huge,” he added.
Mod: FEMA would rather you get flood insurance now rather than asking them for cash relief later when your house is buried in a mountain of mud. This from the LA Times.)
FEMA urges Californians to buy flood insurance before El Niño With drenching El Niño rains anticipated to begin more than a month from now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging Californians to buy flood insurance, even if they live in areas of low to moderate risk.
"If there was ever a time to buy flood insurance, this is the time," said Roy Wright, FEMA's deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation.
"You cannot get it at the last minute. There's a 30-day wait period for new flood insurance policies to go into effect," Wright told reporters at a Friday press conference.
Traditionally, only one-third to one-half of U.S. residents who live in flood risk areas are covered by flood insurance, according to Wright. Most standard homeowner policies do not cover flood damage.
Californians can obtain information on flood insurance, as well as rate their flood risk, by going to the website FloodSmart.gov.
Earlier this month, Antelope Valley and Lake Hughes residents got a foretaste of the potential havoc El Niño could wreak this winter when heavy rains caused mudslides to bury cars and trucks along Interstate 5 and the 58 Freeway.
Although the downpour was unrelated to El Niño, it demonstrated how four years of drought and widespread wildfires had impaired the land's ability to absorb large amounts of rainfall. Unable to percolate into the soil, the rain raced over the earth, picking up loose soil as it moved to lower elevations.
"It's almost like asphalt," Wright said of parched and fire-scarred earth. "When rain hits, it just conveys straight down very quickly."
Mod: Hmm. That asphalt thing doesn't bode well for the "percolate" theory we hear so much about. Click here for the rest of the story.