El Nino 2015-16 is the real deal


After the unprecedented round of storms in California this past week El Nino watchers are confirming what the experts have known for the past year – the 2015-2016 precipitation season will be extremely wet. How wet is uncertain but rainfall and snow pack could set all-time records.

Consider the growing body of data. Climatologists said the summer of 2015 would be a wet one. In June it rained, hailed, and snowed in Mineral King more than five inches in three days.

Backcountry travelers so far this season are reporting rain somewhere nearly every day. In the recent past, the monsoon season was typically an August event.

On Monday, July 20 it poured buckets in a wide swath from the Mexican border to the high country north of the Yosemite Valley. San Diego received 1.71 inches of rain in a few hours easily the most rainfall ever on a single day in July since records have been kept in 1850. 

The wide band of wet was fueled by moisture from Hurricane Delores spawned in the equatorial Pacific – another tell-tale sign of a deepening El Nino. Hurricanes will be numerous in the Pacific this season more so than in the Atlantic.

Of course, not all of California was blessed by this wacky wet weather. In the tinder dry Napa Valley firefighters were dealing with a rapidly growing wildfire this week sparked in an area where it hasn’t rained a drop in several weeks.

In Kaweah Country, it rained a half inch in about 15 minutes all the way from Lake Kaweah to Ash Mountain in Sequoia and Grant Grove in Kings Canyon national parks. In a typical year, local firefighters would be dealing with the aftermath of dozens of lightning-caused fires.

Not so this year because the lightning came with a drenching. But that doesn’t mean the local fire danger has diminished. There is still a long way to go in the summer season and there’s bound to be more lightning El Nino continued from page 1 strikes and lightning caused fires.

According to Michael Theune, the fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the type of lightning makes a huge difference whether there will be a fire or not.

“There are two main types of lightning – positive and negative – named depending on which type of charge they transfer from the cloud to the ground,” Theune said. “For us in the fire service, one sticks out more than the other – the positive strike.”

Theune explained that positive lightning originates in the highest parts of clouds and burns through a larger amount of air creating a stronger electrical field and is thus more powerful. A positive strike can be as much as 1 billion volts.

“That’s a lot of energy on a single tree or shrub,” Theune said. “According to the National Weather Service, positive lightning makes up less than 5 percent of all lightning strikes.”

After a storm comes through Kaweah Country the fire watchers at Ash Mountain look at lightning maps to see where the strikes took place – of course looking at the positive strikes with the most interest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.