Stewardship Monday: El Niño

As you track the state of weather and water, especially in thirsty California, you are likely to hear about El Niño, and the potential that this atmospheric phenomenon might ease our water shortage.

An “El Niño” event is when the surface waters of the tropical Pacific become abnormally warm. This warming across the ocean decreases the gradient (colder at the eastern Pacific – warmer at the western Pacific) that drives “normal” weather patterns and trade winds. This warm water (at our coast) usually arrives around December, and results in a cascade of effects in weather across the globe. In North America we often associate El Niño events with heavy rainfall and storms. There is also usually less upwelling of nutrient-rich, cold water, which affects the atmosphere as well as the organisms that thrive on upwelling conditions.

While El Niño has brought storms, floods and, “natural disasters” in the past, it varies tremendously in its strength. This year, the much-anticipated El Niño event has been forecast to be weak, if it happens at all—with only a 65% probability of developing.

El Niño or no, stewards can always do their part to conserve water. Water saving tip of the week: learn from the saying “April showers bring May flowers”–as you heat up your shower, have the water run into a bucket and use it to water the plants. Share your water wise tips in the comment section.


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