The ‘blob’ is back

NOAA image. The orange blob toward the left indicates warmer-than-normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, which is characteristic of El Nino.

Federal officials report a 60 percent chance that El Nino conditions will persist in the Pacific Ocean through next fall, which of course is generating the usual speculation about what this means for drought-stricken California.

This past winter it meant nothing. After months of toying with us, an El Nino did finally materialize in March, but it wasn’t a strong one. Wet years in Northern California correlate only with strong El Ninos.

You’d think the public might be more skeptical this time around.

But state officials have the opposite fear. They worry that the public might become complacent. After all, we associate “El Nino” with months and months of nonstop rain. The drought will get kicked to the curb and we can all go back to our wasteful ways… right?

“It really sends the wrong message when we’re encouraging people to do conservation programs and really focus on that,” said Jeanine Jones, a drought manager for the state Department of Water Resources. “We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Spring forecasts of El Nino are “notoriously not very reliable,” she added.

So don’t plan your sprinkler schedule this weekend around a forecast that might or might not materialize six months from now. In this case, a little skepticism is a good thing.

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