EL NIÑO IS BACK.
And this time, it's a List.
- •PrologueI can make an entire list of the types of conversations surfers have categorized by break. For example, when I’m sitting out in the South Bay, the talk turns towards finance because of all the VCs. Out in Venice? Locals' gripes and groans about gentrification and Internet yuppies. I spent my mornings this week in Malibu, listening to the crowd ruminate on rising water temps, shark attacks (popular media topic), and the looming onfall of El Niño.
- •Yes, THAT El Niño.El Niño refers to a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. Its effects are largely felt in the winters: roiling storms, annihilative floods… Although it powers up every few years, the last time Southern California really got nailed was in the fall/winter of ’97/’98. If you were around to remember the rainfall (and snowfall) that doused us that year, this winter is setting up to be exponentially heavier.
- •Seriously.Usually at this time of the year, I have to start off my early mornings in a full wetsuit, but it’s not strange to find many surfers out at 6 am in nothing but shorts and nipples. The water temperature is noticeably tepid, and that’s the largest signifier that something’s off. "The water temperatures are anomalously warm,” reports the LA Times, "about 3 to 5 degrees above average,” which is precisely what the NASA website indicates as El Niño behavior (http://1.usa.gov/1UeYoh4)
- •I mean,Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society reports: “There is a 99% chance of El Niño continuing through most of the fall.” The Inertia claims, "We’re in For One of the Biggest El Niños in Recorded History." (http://bit.ly/1SS03Xc)
- •It's already here!In fact, as the LA Times reports, this unusual humidity we’ve been sweating through in So.Cal is just a harbinger of what’s to come. "We call it the monsoon on steroids,” a NASA climatologist says. There are even connections between El Niño and our recent tryst with Hurricane Dolores. That event was truly exceptional,” Swain said. “And that is largely because of the very warm ocean temperatures related to the strong El Niño event.” (http://lat.ms/1MvTgTe)
- •That's right. I said HURRICANES.You know how hurricanes can’t touch LA because the cold water around us diffuses them? Well, 'cuz our waters are getting as tropical as our Mexican brethren below, we may find ourselves on the receiving end of a nasty one "Surprise -- yes. Hurricane-force winds hit San Diego on Oct. 2, 1858, and tropical storm-force winds were felt up the coast to Long Beach, according to scientists... El Niño may have been a factor." (http://lat.ms/1LXhAwW)
- •OMG WHAT ELSEFor Southern California? Torrential rain. Merciless floods. After a Fall of expected wildfires, mudslides to the max. Elsewhere? Customarily wetter regions will be warmer than average. Basically, everything turns on its head. El Niño in the 1790s caused such poor crop yields, that it led to the French Revolution. In 1876, 13 Million Chinese died from El Niño famine. We can expect outbreaks of malaria in South America.
- •Peruvian officials have already declared a state of emergency.The 1982-83 El Niño prompted plagues of toads and grasshoppers, but their biggest threat is to the Peruvian fishing industry, which anchors their economy. Peru has been familiar with El Niño’s repercussions since the dawn of time. They monikered the weather system after the baby Christ, since it arrives around his birthday. (http://bit.ly/1Dj2twa)
- •But wait, isn’t that good for our drought?Not necessarily. According to NPR, El Niño may do more harm than good. Because as unprepared as we are for droughts, we’re just as ill-prepared for the opposite. “If we get heavy rainfall, we're engineered to move it as rapidly as possible to the oceans.” Crazy as it sounds, it turns out that we just had an abnormally wet century, we got all excited and developed the West too fast, and are now realizing FML WE’RE IN THE DESERT. (http://n.pr/1eL6nlW)
- •Well, suck me sideways. Now, what do I do?Keep in mind there are blown-out El Niño predictions EVERY year. Typical alarmist media fodder. Then again, we're having a pretty weird summer (Shark attacks much?). Take it from someone who’s had to deal with it firsthand, most mornings I’m out in the water: lone baby seals, dying onshore. Clumps of Mexican crabs. And so many nipples. “This is not something we’ve seen in previous strong El Niños.. extreme..unusual configuration...What happens this winter is definitely going to be interesting."