Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Thursday its sea-temperature measurements off the Southern California coast suggest that a wet El Niño winter is increasingly likely.
An autonomous underwater glider known as Spray is monitoring water temperature off Dana Point. Scripps physical oceanographer Dan Rudnick said the Spray data so far strongly agrees with temperature data collected at the Equator.
El Niño is a phenomenon characterized by warmer surface water in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean. It is often associated with greater rainfall on much of the U.S. West Coast and frequently amplifies storm surges by raising the regional sea level for several months at a time.
Currently the National Oceanographic an Atmospheric Administration forecasts the probability of El Niño conditions at 70 percent during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer and reaching 80 percent during the fall and winter.
An El Niño is defined by a seasonal sea surface temperature anomaly in the eastern/central equatorial Pacific greater than 0.5 C° (0.9° F) warmer than historical average temperature.
The opposite phenomenon known as La Niña is defined as a seasonal sea surface temperature anomaly 0.5° C (0.9° F) colder than the historical average.
Catherine Kuhlman, deputy secretary for ocean and coastal policy with the California Natural Resources Agency, said the state is preparing for the possibility of El Niño conditions this year.
“This measure of preparedness is evidence of the strong leadership of California in the use of science to guide state policy,” she said.
Scripps Institution at the University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest and largest centers for global oceanographic research in the world.