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California Braces for the Worst: El Niño May Be Too Little, Too Late to Save It From Drought

July 16, 2014 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

The Golden State issues statewide water restrictions as it prepares for the worst shortage in its history.


California has imposed statewide water-use regulations for the first time as its three-year drought worsens. Yesterday, state regulators approved stringent new measures limiting outdoor water, which include $500 fines for using an outdoor hose without a shut-off nozzle.

Meanwhile, hopes that the drought would break by autumn have been tempered. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center downplayed the help that El Niño may bring to the drought-plagued West in its monthly report of Pacific Ocean weather patterns. While the Center is still projecting that sea surface temperatures will be warmer than usual—a phenomenon known as El Niño—it is now saying that the effect will be only “weak to moderate.”

The forecast strength of the El Niño was downgraded because Pacific Ocean temperatures near the International Date Line have not continued to rise since earlier this year when they were well above average. While strong El Niño weat​h​er patterns usually create more rain for California, weaker El Niños typically don't bring more rains to the region.

The Center said that there is a 70% chance El Niño will develop by the end of the summer, and an 80% chance that one will develop by the early winter.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology concurred with U.S. climate forecasts in a press release yesterday. It further suggests that El Niño has been effictively counteracted by the arrival of cooler water.

All of California is under drought conditions and will likely remain that way through autumn. Reservoirs are precariously low in many places. The nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada, is now at an all-time low.  

It is the first time in 15 years that the entire state suffers from a water shortage. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a government-funded weekly map of drought conditions, says that the entire state now suffers from conditions ranging from “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought.” Heavy-population centers all suffer from “extreme drought” or “exceptional drought.”

El Niño refers to a recurring weather pattern that develops …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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