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El Niño Gearing Up For 'Second Peak' in Southern California

It's a little too soon to write of this season's El Niño as a no-show, just because a punishing succession of drenching storms has yet to materialize. The weather phenomenon is still on, even if the drizzles in Southern California and the harder rain up north that are happening now aren't really El Niño-driven, according to experts. (With the exception of the intense rain in the first week of this month.) The LA Times reports that the relatively mild weather we're seeing now here in the Southland is actually just part of normal weather for this time of year, but they insist that there are still serious storms on the way.

Off the coast of Peru, a giant section of warm water "2 1/2 times the size of the continental United States" could be poised to get warmer, gearing El Niño up for its second wind. JPL climatologist Bill Patzert says that the trade winds have gotten weaker, which means the warm water can get warmer and the El Niño can get stronger—a "second peak," he calls it. But that might take a little time. "I think El Niño will live up to its hype, but you have to be patient," he says. In an interview with Curbed earlier this month, Patzert pointed out that two of the biggest El Niños to date—in the winters of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998—got late starts, with 1998 hitting hardest in February, and the '82-'83 storms peaking in January and March.

A Stanford University climate scientist tells the Times that Southern California's chances of getting hit by storms have been stunted by "an area of high pressure southwest of the state that has been unusually persistent." High pressure's stopped El Niño before. A high pressure ridge to the far north—nicknamed the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge for its steadfastness—stymied California rainfall for years, helping to create the state's still ongoing drought, but that one reportedly dissipated last year. (Is this the Spawn of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge?)

For now there are no big rains headed for SoCal, but "Computer models suggest that there will be a burst of energy in the jet stream later in January," and the region could get slammed then with strong El Niño-y storms.

Whenever it peaks and whatever deluges it brings, Patzert tells the Times that however much rain the El Niño brings, the drought will likely still be a problem come summer. "In February and March, we might be talking about mudslides. But in July or August, we're going to be talking about the drought again."
· What happened to El Niño? Be patient, L.A., it'll come, expert says [LAT]
· An Expert Explains: What Exactly Should Los Angeles Expect From This Winter's Brewing El Niño? [Curbed LA]
· Southern California's El Niño Storms Are Running Late—When Will They Show Up? [Curbed LA]
· How Droughty is Los Angeles Still After Last Week's Big Rains? [Curbed LA]