The coming El Nino will mess with everything

mudslide photo
Photo by crawfish head

El Nino hasn’t hit North America yet. However, it has already caused droughts, smog, and typhoons elsewhere, as well as gyrating commodity prices. As one who lived in Southern California during two El Ninos, I do believe this one is going to be ginormous and devastating to California. Yes, reservoirs and crops in California will get precious rain. However, houses will slide down hills, boulders will crash down on roads, streets will flood, and freeways will become parking lots. Hurricane Patricia, which is about to hit western Mexico as a Cat 5, is fueled by El Nino too

The last big El Nino in 1997-98 caused tens of billions in damage worldwide. This one could be as strong. Heat waves in India and Pakistan have already killed people. Asia harvests will be reduced. The brunt of El Nino is expected to hit southern California. That’s not where the major reservoirs are. To help the drought El Nino needs to hit in northern California too, especially in the Sierras.

Expect “major disruptions, widespread droughts and floods,” Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. In principle, with advance warning, El Nino can be managed and prepared for, “but without that knowledge, all kinds of mayhem will let loose.”

While the effect on the U.S. may not reach a crescendo until February, much of the rest of the world is already feeling the impact, Trenberth said.

“It probably sits at No. 2 in terms of how strong this event is, but we won’t be able to rank it until it peaks out and ends.

A crucial issue is that California and the American Southwest save as much of that water as possible. Las Vegas already does this well because catches water in giant flood catchments through the area, then stores the water in Lake Mead after being cleaned. Other areas aren’t as fortunate and don’t have a big lake to store water in.

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