El Niño storms may
double rainfall total
by Lenny Roberts
The dry creeks, extreme fire danger and brown hillsides in
Southern California will more than likely be erased this winter
by an El Niño condition, as early-season storms have indicated.
With the arrival of Thursday's storm - expected to bring varying
but substantial amounts of precipitation throughout the weekend
- the percentages of normal could easily double those for this
time last year.
AccuWeather, the forecasting service for the Ojai Valley News
online edition, is predicting measurable amounts of rain for
the local area over the next few weeks. On the average, Ojai
receives 3.5 inches of rain in December; 4.9 in January; 4.5
in a 28-day February; and 3.5 in March. Entering and leaving
the rainy season, November and April generally account for about
an inch and a half of rain.
November got off to a good start locally as a three-day storm
dumped nearly 6 inches of much-welcomed moisture. That amount
basically matched last year's total season, which runs from Oct.
1 to Sept. 30.
Between Dec. 14 and 17, Matilija Dam received 2.45 inches of
rain for a total accumulation of 9.66 inches thus far this season.
The normal total through Dec. 17 is 6.27 inches, according to
the Ventura County Public Works Agency.
In the same period, Casitas Dam received 2.05 inches, followed
by Oak View, at 1.83, and Ojai, with 1.47 inches. All amounts
are estimated from remotely placed rain gauges.
The National Weather Service said last week's early dose of snow
and ice in the eastern part of the country may be a glimpse of
weather to come during Winter 2002-03, thanks to a moderate-strength
El Niño digging in its heels.
"This is a classic El Niño pattern," said retired
U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary
of commerce for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"El Niño is one of the driving forces behind these
kinds of winter storm systems, which develop in the south and
head east." Lautenbacher added, "El Niño will
shape weather patterns through spring."
El Niño occurs, NWS officials explain, when sea surface
temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean remain above average
for more than several months. This usually triggers a chain reaction
of atmospheric and weather changes around the globe.
Based on NOAA's latest El Niño forecast and its updated
December-February winter outlook, forecasters said the nation
can expect warmer-than-normal temperatures across the northern
half of the country, wetter and stormier-than-normal weather
across the south from California through the Carolinas, and drier-than-normal
conditions in the northern Rockies and Midwest, according to
NOAA's Web site.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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