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Friday, November 24, 2017 11:33 PM PST

What happened to El Nino? Warm and dry weather dominates February

By Reginald Stanley. Posted February 16, 2016, 3:07 PM.



A strong El Nino has been present in the equatorial Pacific Ocean this winter, however, the anticipated heavy rains typically associated with strong El Nino conditions have yet to materialize in Southern California this winter. Meanwhile, Northern California has received abundant rain and mountain snow, temporarily alleviating drought conditions there.

Instead, extended dry periods have been the norm in the region, and particularly warm offshore wind episodes have been common since the start of February. A particularly stubborn, recurring High Pressure ridge has been blocking the storm track from targeting Southern California. As the vital months of winter pass and very little to no rain falls across the region, it appears that this El Nino has failed to deliver. Most storms this winter have been weak and intermittent, with the exception of several wetter storms in January. Seasonal precipitation totals are running below normal across the region.

El Nino events of this strength have been observed only three times since 1950, with the current event being the fourth. All other three strong El Ninos - which occurred in 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98 - all brought tremendous storms to Southern California, resulting in much above normal rainy seasons those years.

There is still a chance for major storms to drench the region, however. The wettest months of the year on average are December through March - a little more than half of that period has passed this winter. The remainder of February does not look promising in the forecasts, however in some years, a March Miracle would occur - where a primarily dry winter would be interrupted by periods of unusually wet weather in March (as observed in 1991 and 2006). While statistically unlikely, especially in an El Nino year, it could occur and boost season totals to at least near normal or possibly above normal.

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