A plant display in the Water Conservation Garden. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The weather phenomenon known as El Nino is fading, and drought conditions remain entrenched in San Diego and the rest of California, according to a pair of reports released Thursday.

The Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service, announced a 75 percent chance that a La Nina pattern could form in El Nino’s place.

El Nino is characterized by warmer than usual ocean water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific and often brings more rain than normal to the state. La Nina is the opposite, with cooler water temperatures, though Emily Becker of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its weather impact is limited.

“La Nina is favored to develop during the Northern Hemisphere summer 2016, with about a 75 percent chance of La Nina during the fall and winter 2016- 17,” a statement from the Climate Prediction Center says.

The second report, from the U.S. Drought Monitor, showed this week that nearly half of California, including San Diego, remains in “extreme drought.” However, that’s less than the 69 percent recorded at the end of last year and 71 percent in September.

Data from the Drought Monitor — a partnership between NOAA, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — showed the Shasta Reservoir, Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake nearly full. Many of the other lakes and reservoirs, however, remain well below capacity, while the Sierra snowpack was 51 percent of normal statewide as of Wednesday.

As it turned out, aside from a couple of strong storms, El Nino delivered only moderate rainfall to San Diego and nearby counties. Northern California received far more precipitation, refilling some of the reservoirs that provide water to customers around the state.

The mixed bag of results prompted Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday to make certain drought-related restrictions on water use permanent, and ordered local water agencies to continue providing consumption figures to state water officials.

The reports were released less than a week before the San Diego City Council is scheduled to consider whether to cancel its declaration of a state of local emergency because of El Nino.

The emergency was declared by the council members last November because of heightened Pacific sea surface temperatures that threatened a rainy winter in Southern California. Such declarations clear the way for local governments to seek state or federal funding in the event an emergency situation arises, and must be renewed monthly.

–City News Service

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