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Leading Oceanographer Says La Nina Pattern Deflecting Rain From Central, South Coasts

(NASA Image)
NASA imagery reflecting the latest ocean water temperatures

It was the biggest storm of the season.  For some parts of the Central and South Coasts, it felt like a week straight of rain.  But, for most of the region, rainfall is well below average for what we should have at this point in the rainfall season.  One of the nation’s best known oceanographers says we are feeling the impact of a La Nina pattern, which in effect is steering needed rainfall away from us.

Dr. Bill Patzert has been tracking El Nino, and La Nina patterns for decades.  He says La Ninas are the cool sibling of El Ninos.  He says when warm water off the coasts of Peru, and Ecuador cools below average, there are specific patterns which develop in the atmosphere.  Patzert says La Ninas can often create dryer and warmer weather across the southern tier of the United States, while the northern tier like Oregon and Washington will bet hammered by strong storms. 

He says we saw a La Nina pattern develop in the Pacifric last summer.

Many parts of the Central and South Coasts have only had 30 to 40% of average rainfall for this time of the rainfall season.  Santa Maria is at 44%, Santa Barbara 30%, Oxnard is at 37%, and Thousand Oaks is at 33%. 

The problem is the La Nina pattern is helping to set the stage for another potentially below average rainfall year.  It’s become an all too common problem for our region.

But, the longtime oceanographer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena says La Nina is part of a bigger challenge facing California, which includes climate change and a huge population creating a massive demand for water.

Patzert says we still have time to pull out this rainfall season, with February, March, and even April months where we historically can get solid rainfall.  What does he think will happen?  He is leaning towards us having a dryer than average year, in the drought range.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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