Is El Niño Finally Manning Up? More Rain Is Forecast

Is El Niño Finally Manning Up? More Rain Is Forecast
Photo by Alex Thompson/LA Weekly

El Niño has been a disappointment, we know. 

But then there was the weekend, when two storms came through Los Angeles and dumped a little more of an inch of rain downtown, according to the National Weather Service.

And now there's hope that another storm could strike on Friday. And there's no sign of the high-pressure system that's been blocking rain for much of the winter, although temps could rise to the mid- to upper 70s by Thursday, forecasters say.

Experts have said that heavy El Niño–fueled rains expected by some long-range forecasters have until the end of the month to start soaking drought-weary Southern California, so this could be a good omen.

El Niño, marked by exceptionally warm waters along the equatorial Pacific, can help to supersize West Coast storms by injecting them with tropical moisture.

That's been happening with about four or so storms so far this winter, but the rainfall has been less than impressive.

For example, the one-two punch of fronts over the weekend produced the kind of rain we might normally see in a non–El Niño year, says Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the NWS.

"The rain amounts are not terribly unusual," he said.

Even with Friday's potential storm, there's a 60 percent chance of rain, but "how much remains to be seen," Munroe said.

"There is a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast for Friday right now," the NWS said in a statement.

Private forecaster AccuWeather says Friday's front has the "potential" to bring rain to Southern California. It also says that a "crop of Pacific Ocean storms will likely remain fruitful through the end of March and into April."

El Niño has actually been quite fruitful on the West Coast for much of the winter — just not in Southern California. The ability of an El Niño–fueled jet stream to strike our coast is still in question.

The federal Climate Prediction Center says that in the third week of March, Southern California likely will see precipitation in the range of 33 to 40 percent below normal.

That's not El Niño territory.

On the other hand, El Niño is known to strike late in the season. There's still time, but he's pushing deadline.

"Just to see a couple storms in a row is not unusual," Munroe said. "But it is the tail end of our season. We have to get what we can. These last few weeks mark our last good month for rain."


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