Water Year 2016: Driven by an El Niño Without a Head

Who decapitated the El Niño of Calendar Years 2015-16? When it formed, the most eastern section of it never came to be. It’s as though it were born without a head.
David Prasad – passage of a powerful El Niño storm in 1983. Nothing from this year has rivaled any of these 1983 storms.

It is now one of the most longest lasting of all El Niños, having received a recent recharge of its warm water supply (known as a “Kelvin Wave”), with possibly another recharge still to come (another “Kelvin Wave”). Normally, about this time in the lifespan of an El Niño, the event is done and ready to head towards neutral. No more Kelvin Waves.

But this El Niño, which began almost one year ago, has had one peculiarity. The very region where El Niños first emerge never participated in it. The missing section is known as “Niño Region 1+2.” Even though it is the smallest of the regions, it may turn out to be the most significant. All the great El Niños start in this easternmost area of the equatorial Pacific located between the South American coast and the Galapagos Islands. But this one began west of the Galapagos and built westward, in “Niño Region 3.4.”  The cool upwelling of South America continued to have influence. Very non-El Niño-like.

NOAA – The El Niño regions

That is possibly the reason why so many potentially strong North Pacific storms never became strong this Water Year, broken up by a disorganized, splitting jet stream in the eastern side of the North Pacific. We’d have had a terrific wet season by now had that not happened. In fact, parts of California are still drier than ever.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 11.31.49 PM.png
NOAA – El Niño 2016’s westward displacement.

Check out these percentages of 30-year average as of Feb. 3, 2016, and note many places are still checking in at below average. The drought continues…

Yreka – 12.86 inches – 115% of average for this date.
Fort Ross – 24.02 inches – 105% of average for this date. Downtown San Francisco – 13.64 inches – 102% of average for this date.
San Jose Airport – 8.79 inches – 113% of average for this date.
Auburn – 15.17 inches – 78% of average for this date.
Sacramento – 9.47 inches – 87% of average for this date.
Yosemite NP – 20.14 inches – 108% of average for this date.
Grant Grove – 22.64 inches – 107% of average for this date.
Bakersfield – 3.28 inches – 105% of average for this date.
Paso Robles – 5.55 inches – 87% of average for this date.
Ojai – 5.03 inches – 47% of average for this date.
Downtown Los Angeles – 4.20 inches – 59% of average for this date.
San Diego – 6.06 inches -119% of average for this date.

After Storm 39, Paso Robles, Los Angeles and Ojai dramatically improved from being around only 10-20% of average!

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  1. WY 2016 Storms No. 40 & 41 – 160202-160204 | Niiice, dave!

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