El Niño pattern could bring possible drought relief

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center just announced the waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean are showing signs of warming.

This pattern is called El Niño and has historically produced record rains. Northern California has also seen damaging winter storms due to this global weather pattern.

El Niño develops every two to five years. It alters storm tracks and weather patterns around the world.

There are three phases in the Pacific Ocean waters:

  1. El Niño - warmer than average sea-surface temperatures
  2. La Niña - cooler than average sea-surface temperatures
  3. Neutral phase, which has been in place since Spring 2012

The last El Niño occurred in 2009-2010. That year, there was slightly below average rain for Sacramento with 19.55 inches recorded. However, the following rain year ended above normal with nearly 25 inches of rain.

In the midst of a drought, more rain may sound like a good thing. In some El Niño years, however, too much rain results in flooding and billions of dollars in damage.


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