El Nino or El Nada?

El Nino!  Everybody’s talking about it!  NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has declared this year’s El Nino the “Godzilla” of El Nino’s (whatever that means). Second only to 1997’s El Nino.

But seriously, what does this mean?  To quote NOAA again, “El Nino is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe.” The layman’s translation is that “the surface of the water in the pacific is going to be warmer than normal, which will bring more precipitation to certain parts of the world.”  Specifically, our part of the world.

This is great news for California.  Needless to say, after four years of drought, the mere thought of a wet winter has brought high anticipation to Lake Tahoe.  Most have made the assumption that wet equals snow.  Maybe, maybe not.  While I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, it’s important to note the precipitation will be from the Tropical Pacific which means warm.  This great amount of precipitation could very easily be rain.  Tahoe could very well look more like Seattle this winter.

Back to 1997, we did get lots of snow in a very short time, right before Christmas.  Then we got lots of rain and all that snow melted. At least, down at lake level.  There was a great deal of snow on the mountain.  That’s the important place to be, on the mountain.  Snow on the Sierra crest helps the entire state.

California may or may not receive record precipitation.  But it does look like we stand a very good chance of having a wet winter.  After what we had last year, the lowest snowpack in 150 years, even a light wet winter will be a relief.  However, we won’t know what we are going to get until after we have had it. Stay tuned.