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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

El Niño Brings Strange Weather And Needed Water To California Slopes

El Niño’s unexpected weather pattern won’t end the drought, but should bring more snow.

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Scientists believe that this year’s predicted El Niño storms may be among the worst we’ve seen in nearly two decades. This condition, that includes heavy rainfall in Southern California, occurs when the Pacific Ocean temperature heats up along the western coast of South America. And this year, we are seeing the highest average increase in temperature in the area since the last since the last major El Niño in 1997.

This is good news for drought-stricken California.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects a significant increase in the chance of rain.  Southern California has a 69 percent chance of above normal rain, where Northern California has a 39 percent chance.

More rain hopefully means more snow and an economic boom for California ski resorts.

Richard Erler, Mountain Operations Manager at Snow Valley Mountain Resort northeast of San Bernardino, is looking forward to the possibilities.  He said that past El Niño conditions have have meant more storms, and more snow.

Total snowfall in the area has decreased over the last several years.  Snow along the slopes is supplemented by large artificial snow makers.  Natural snowfall will come in the next months, but with the strange patterns of El Niño added into the mix, Erler expects more.   “We’ve had storms in the past that have actually dropped anywhere from six to eight feet of snow in one night,” he reminisced.

Even as more precipitation is expected, El Niño most likely won’t cure California’s drought problems.  Weather related to the unpredictable patterns did help to end the drought of 1993, but there is no guarantee that will happen again.

Continuing an attempt to curb the drought’s impact, Governor Jerry Brown recently issued a new executive order stating that California’s crackdown on water consumption will continue to October of 2016 if the rain (or snow) doesn’t come by January.  

Click here for skiing location in Southern California

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