Well, it’s late summer, so time for the annual “Will it be an El Niño winter?” watch. Looks like it’s time to order bigger boards and start shopping for short-arm fall wetsuits.
Science has pointed its most powerful antennae toward the heavens, sent their trustiest weather balloons into the clouds, consulted their ocean temp-monitoring buoys, read old Farmer’s Almanacs, checked the tea leaves, and whatever else it is meteorologists and climate scientists do to predict weather events, and they’ve concluded: Probably an El Niño winter.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is putting the odds at about 70 percent that we’ll see the storm-fueling natural phenomenon spin up this fall and winter, that is, the 2018-2019 big-wave season in the northern hemisphere.
You of course remember how all of this works. Warmer ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific mean, potentially anyway, more storms as the warm water acts as a liquid engine for massive winter cold fronts. Right now, scientists have noticed the classic warming pattern in the Pacific, but, weather is weird and complicated, and other atmospheric factors have to play along. Wind patterns have to shift, namely, which doesn’t always happen with warming ocean temps.
The record warm seas Southern California has seen this summer would continue through an El Niño, and many marine biologists are worried about what that means for ocean life. Lots of dead birds have been washing ashore recently in California, with the culprit fingered as warmer than normal water messing with the typical food chain.
The overall warming the oceans are seeing across the planet means when we do see El Niño events, it could start to feel downright tropical in California as the water heats up more and more. Sounds good, but it will annihilate local sea life and drastically change the character of our coastline. El Niños of course can also mean devastating storms and flooding, so while the West certainly can use the rain, it will come with a bit of trepidation too.
So this could be a year we see the Mavericks event run, spectacular Pipe conditions, and rarely-breaking waves all over our local beaches. At least, there’s a 70 percent chance of that.