El Niño has been the news a lot lately.  Have you heard?  Its a monster, possibly the biggest ever.  It could end the drought.
Or maybe not.  El Niño has to contend with the large mass of unusually warm water extending from the coast of Northern California almost all the way up to Alaska.  “The Blob”, as some folks are calling it, might be causing the drought or it may just be a symptom of whatever is causing it.
The brawl between these two meteorological bullies will be the big weather story of the coming winter.There are lots of reasons to hope that the weather pattern brewing in the Pacific is not the most powerful Niño ever.  Hoping for an El Niño like this to end the drought is much like cutting off your hand to get it out of a trap.
Sure, the great drought of the Twenty-teens is causing economic and physical devastation to a number of places and people in our state right now.  In the last three weeks, we have watched from our fields as giant swathes of the Coast Range to the west of us have gone up in smoke, like many forested mountainous areas all over California.

Wildfire is a terrifying phenomena.  But for the most part it happens in remote areas and affects comparatively few people, with a few very big exceptions.

But El Niño storms, for all the benefit they bring to our reservoirs, snow pack and parched soils, also bring floods.  Most human activities in California happen in low-lying areas along or near rivers, creeks and the coast, and thus are much vulnerable to flooding than to fire.  Powerful wind and heavy rain during big storms also have a tendency to destroy agricultural crops.

Most of the worst floods in California history have happened during ElNiño years, or during the so-called ¨Pineapple Express” storms that tend to occur in those years when subtropical moisture gets pulled into the state.

We have already been feeling the initial effects of this warm and humid air.  Here at the farm, it has rained every ten days or so for the last six weeks. While it hasn’t amounted to much, it is so unusual as to be considered extreme.  It’s been cloudy and humid instead of dry.

Drought is a slow-moving natural disaster.  And if it lasts too long, it can be just as destructive as amassive storm. But if this year’s El Niño shapes up to be the biggest ever, we will likely see one or more extreme weather event that causes extensive damage from flooding and wind.
Like most farmers, I am hoping for a nice normal winter, with frequent but not extreme storms that fill the soil profile and the reservoirs with water and cover the Sierra with snow over a long season.  The warm water just to our west may soften the effects of El Niño just enough to give us this Goldilocks scenario.

“The Blob” and “El Niño”, battling it out to a draw.  That’s the winter I’d like to see.