Four years deep into a record-busting drought, California may have a hero coming in the form of a strong-looking El Niño system that seems like it could dump a ton of rain on the region this winter. But there's also a drought-loving villain lurking along the West Coast that could stop the El Niño's moistening dead in its tracks. This is The Blob and it's the henchman of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, a high pressure zone over the North Pacific that is helping to cause the drought in the first place. KPCC has made an adorable video explaining the battle for California raininess that will play out this winter.
An El Niño forms near the equator in the Pacific Ocean when trade winds die down and the water heats up a couple degrees Celsius above the average, which can alter the jet stream that brings storms from the Pacific to the US, bending it away from the Pacific Northwest and toward California. The one forming now first appeared late last year and could be even stronger than the one in the late nineties that doubled the average rainfall in some parts of California. A NASA JPL climate research tells KPCC "The intensity of this El Niño is larger than anything at this point than I have seen in my career." (But it's not too late for it to die down.)
The Blob is another patch of unusually warm ocean water, but right along the coast, running 2,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Mexico. It was first noticed in 2014 and is probably being caused by the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, a high pressure area that has for the most part refused to move out of the North Pacific for a couple years now, blocking storms from hitting the west coast and winds from cooling the ocean water.
What will happen when El Niño meets The Blob? It could be good, it could be very good, or it could be bad. (There's "no precedent" for the interaction, according to researchers!) El Niño could just barrel through, breaking apart the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge and The Blob in the process, or the Ridge and Blob could hold the El Niño storms at bay, allowing a wet winter in SoCal but not enough rain in NorCal, which needs it more. Or El Niño could recruit The Blob to work for good: The Blob could send extra moisture into the air, making El Niño's storms even more intense. The battle begins this winter.
El Niño versus the blob from KPCC on Vimeo.
· El Niño vs. the Blob: which will win out this winter? [KPCC]
· Only 12 to 20 More Of These Storms And the Drought is Over! [Curbed LA]
· The Terrifying Stats on Just How Dry Los Angeles Has Been the Past Few Years [Curbed LA]