Expert says heavy NorCal rains likely from forthcoming El Niño

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) --  In urging all of us to keep conserving because the coming winter could extend our drought, no less that the state climatologist issued this statement Thursday: "Strong El Niño events in the past have led to wetter-than-average conditions in the southern part of the state but offered mixed results for California's main water supply regions in the north."

But KTVU got quite a different outlook from one of the state's most respected independent weather experts who also teaches college students the art and science of meteorology.

El Niño is the occasional warming of water in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean off the South American Coast.

"These have been going on, you know, ever since there's climate and weather going on," said Jan Null, founder of the Golden Gate Weather Service.

Null said we've had six El Niños in just the last 15 years.

"There has been now this ongoing effort in the state to categorize El Niños as weak, moderate, strong or very strong. And the only two very strong ones were the '82 and the '97 events," explained Null. "We're on track this year to probably get into that same category of that much strength of the El Niño."

Null says when El Niños are very warm, as they were in '82 and '97, they can have a big effect on California's weather.

"We saw a lot more rain in the state  The stronger the El Niño is, the more it tilts the odds of an above normal rainfall year," said Null. "Unfortunately, the person who wears the title of State Climatologist is neither a climatologist nor a meteorologist.  He is a civil engineer who designs flood systems."

State Climatologist Michael Anderson hedges by saying this El Niño could bring heavy storms or extend our record drought. Null thinks politics underlie this.

"There has been sort of this downplaying of that by sort of mixing in some not as strong El Niños into the very strong El Niños by the Department of Water Resources as they are trying to promote, 'keep people on the conservation bandwagon,'" concluded Null.

Whatever happens this winter, everyone agrees that it will not fully cure the drought.

So what California residents everywhere need to do take the conservation message seriously until the reservoirs are full and we're not lowering the level of the Central Valley by pumping out too much underground water.

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