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El Niño Won't End California Drought, State Says

planetlight / Flickr
 

planetlight / Flickr

State and federal forecasters say California’s drought won't stop even if a soggy El Niño arrives this winter.

State Climatologist Michael Anderson says there’s only “50/50 chance” of a wetter California winter.

“California cannot count on potential El Niño conditions to halt or reverse drought conditions,” Anderson says in a news release.

Michelle Mead, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, says she agrees.

"The chances of us ending the drought are very, very low,” she tells Capital Public Radio.

She says there’s a strong chance that only Southern California will get drenched by the weather system.  

That would do little to fill the state’s northern reservoirs, which supply the bulk of the state’s water system.

"Past strong El Niños have brought some above average precipitation to Northern Californina," Mead says. "But some have also brought below average precipitation.”

Warmer temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator can signal an oncoming El Niño. Mead says temperatures are now about one degree above average.

She says there’s now a 90 percent chance El Niño will arrive in the Northern Hemisphere this winter. Whether it will bring rain to the Golden State, and which part, remains unclear, she says.

Of the seven years since 1950 with similar El Niño conditions, three were wet years in California, one was average and three were dry, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources.