With El Niño storms estimated to be their strongest in years, we are providing this “need-to-know” information for our valued clients and residents.
Global warming and climate change is something we’ve all been hearing about for quite some time. However, living here in the San Diego region of southern California also brings with it long-time evidence of a weather phenomenon called “El Niño”. With the coming El Niño storms, experts from numerous federal and state organizations are predicting that although we have weathered severe El Niño storms in the past, this year’s upcoming storms are expected to be the strongest in years.
What does this mean to you? We should all expect a significant amount of rain and wind and in a volume and force that is far above “normal” for this part of the country. As a result, we are providing this “need-to-know” information for our valued clients and residents in hopes that it will better prepare you for the coming storms. We encourage you to review this information and please feel free to call us with any questions you may have. Our goal is to make your day-to-day living experience as comfortable as possible, so please let us know if, after reading this information you have any follow up questions.
• What is El Niño? El Niño is a naturally occurring event in the equatorial region which causes temporary changes in the world climate. Originally, El Niño was the name used for warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America. Now, El Niño has come to refer to a whole complex of Pacific Ocean sea-surface temperature changes and global weather events. The ocean warming off South America is just one of these events.
• Why is it called El Niño? Fishermen off the west coast of South America were the first to notice appearances of unusually warm water that occurred at year’s end. The phenomenon became known as El Niño because of its tendency to occur around Christmas time. El Niño is Spanish for “the boy child” and is named after the baby Jesus.
• What is ENSO? ENSO is the “El Niño -Southern Oscillation,” the name scientists use for what is often called El Niño. The Southern Oscillation is a see-saw shift in surface air pressure between the eastern and western halves of the Pacific. When pressure rises in the east, it falls in the west and vice versa. In the 1950’s scientists realized that El Niño and the Southern Oscillation were parts of the same event.
• What causes El Niño? In normal, non-El Niño conditions, trade winds blow in a westerly direction along the equator. These winds pile up warm surface water in the western Pacific, so the sea surface is as much as 18 inches higher in the western Pacific than in the eastern Pacific. These trade winds are one of the main sources of fuel for the Humboldt Current. The Humboldt Current is a cold ocean current which flows north along the coasts of Chile and Peru, then turns west and warms as it moves out into the Central Pacific. So, the normal situation is warmer water in the western Pacific, cooler in the eastern. In an El Niño, the equatorial westerly winds diminish. As a result, the Humboldt Current weakens and this allows the waters along the coast of Chile and Peru to warm and creates warmer than usual conditions along the coast of South America. As far as we know, other forces, such as volcanic eruptions (submarine or terrestrial) and sunspots, do not cause El Niño.
• How often does El Niño occur and how long does it last? El Niños occur irregularly approximately every two to seven years. Warm water generally appears off the coast of South America close to Christmas, and reaches its peak warmth in the eastern Pacific during the late fall of the following year. After peaking, the waters will tend to cool slowly through the winter and spring of the next year. Effects can be felt continually around the globe for more than a year, though this is generally not the case in any one place.
• What effects does El Niño have on world climate? A strong El Niño is often associated with flooding rains and warm weather in Peru, drought in Indonesia, Africa, and Australia, torrential downpours and mudslides in southern California, a mild winter in the northeast, and fewer hurricanes in the southeast. Keep in mind that these effects aren’t guaranteed, but an El Niño makes these conditions more likely to happen.
• Are all El Niño’s the same? Every El Niño is somewhat different in magnitude and duration.
• How can we predict El Niño? In the tropical Pacific Ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates a network of buoys that measure temperature, currents and winds in the equatorial band. The collected data are evaluated by complex computer models designed to predict an El Niño. Even these complex models, however, cannot predict the exact intensity or duration of an El Niño, nor can they predict how areas will be affected.
• What is La Niña? La Nina is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific
• What are the effects of El Niño on the United States? El Niño conditions influence wintertime atmospheric flow across the eastern north pacific and North America. There is considerable event-to-event variability in the character of El Niño episodes, and in some areas impacts can vary substantially from one event to another. However, there are some sections of the U.S. where impacts are fairly consistent and predictable, especially when associated with strong El Niño episodes. In General, El Niño results in:
i. Increased precipitation across California and the southern tier states and a decrease in precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys.
ii. A milder than normal winter across the northern states
iii. During the warm season, El Niño influences hurricane development, resulting in more eastern Pacific hurricanes and fewer Atlantic hurricanes.
• Fix leaks in roof before it rains
• Clean out gutters and downspouts, then clean again right after the first major rain.
• Invest in a generator if you live in an area that is prone for power outages
• Install a sump pump for below-grade areas. If you already have a sump pump, have it serviced by a qualified technician.
• Paint the exterior wood trim of your home. Cracks in paint can carry water directly into the wood and promote dry rot and termite invasion.
• Examine window glazing and re-glaze/caulk as necessary
• Check balcony and deck slopes making sure that water flows away from walls and into drainage system
• Store emergency repair materials (sand bags, heavy plastic sheeting) in a safe, dry place.
• Check the tires on your car to make sure they are well maintained and in good operating condition.
• Replace windshield wipers as needed
• Check car lights – front and rear
• Replace car battery as needed. Or, at the very least, have it checked by a trusted mechanic
• Get brakes and brake pads checked by a qualified mechanic. Replace as needed.
• Make sure yard drains properly
• Turn off automatic water systems
• Consider installing rain barrels at down spouts to capture water for use later.
• Plant winter vegetables in raised beds. Too much water can cause veggies to rot.
• Loosen compacted soil. Ground that has dried out will repel water initially. Tilling in compost and covering with mulch will enable the ground to better absorb rain.
• Secure the yard and tend after fencing as needed. Reinforce the fencing and tie down anything that might blow and cause damage in high winds. Store outdoor furniture, or if that’s not possible, cover glass-top tables with plywood and secure with a cord/rope. Also, place potted plants in a secure area.
• Have materials on-hand to divert water: sandbags, concrete edger’s, straw-waddle tubing can all effectively channel water away from structures to drainage areas.
• Talk to your neighbors. If your house lies below theirs, you’ll want to know where their property drains. If they’ve changed the natural flow path, they may be liable for damage caused by storm runoff from their property to yours.
• Consider flood insurance – even if you’re not in a high risk area.
• Secure important documents in the cloud or on a thumb drive
• Put together preparedness and disaster supply kits for your home and car
• Prepare now. Experts agree that the toughest time to find solutions to rain related issues is during a rainstorm