Our El Ni?o winter could make way for a La Ni?a summer
Good morning. It’s Monday, Feb. 12. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.
- The odds are increasing that La Ni?a will develop in the Pacific this summer.
- A downtown L.A. school is suing the owner of the L.A. Grand Hotel, claiming homeless residents forced officials to shut down the campus.
- 6 ridiculously easy, luscious, gooey and romantic Valentine’s Day chocolate recipes.
- And here’s today’s e-newspaper.
Now: El Ni?o. Later: La Ni?a?
The powerful El Ni?o pattern that brought wet weather and deadly storms to California this winter may finally be weakening, forecasters have said. But our weather weirdness could get even weirder later this year.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the odds are increasing that La Ni?a will develop in the Pacific sometime this summer. The weather pattern is associated with cooler, drier conditions.
La Ni?a tends to follow El Ni?o
It all starts in the tropical Pacific, where winds pushing hot water toward Asia cause the jet stream over North America to shift north. That means less moisture, and the moisture that does come arrives in the Pacific Northwest, more than in California.
“Even though forecasts made through the spring season tend to be less reliable, there is a historical tendency for La Ni?a to follow strong El Ni?o events,” forecasters wrote in an advisory last week.
Climate change is making weather whiplash more extreme
That weather pattern “was a notable factor in California’s most recent drought, which saw unprecedented water restrictions, shriveling groundwater supplies and record-low levels on the Colorado River,” Hayley wrote. “Should the latest forecast manifest, the West Coast could once again experience a rapid swing from precipitation to dryness — a pattern sometimes referred to as ‘weather whiplash’ that is becoming increasingly common in a warming world.”
Another key factor: human-caused climate change, which, as NOAA climate scientist Michelle L’Heureux told Hayley, has a separate but noticeable effect on the weather in California and around the planet.
“There’s always going to be the nudging provided by El Ni?o and La Ni?a, but there’s also going to be the nudging provided by climate change,” she said.
Officials were already worried about drought
The possible return of La Ni?a — and the drier conditions it could bring — comes as state officials have voiced concerns about a “snow drought” developing this water year. We’re getting rain, but not enough of it is turning into snow at higher elevations, thanks in part to warm conditions brought on by El Ni?o. The latest storms helped, but the Sierra snowpack is still below average, according to recent measurements.
Without snowpack to melt in spring and summer, reservoirs cannot be replenished.
Hydroclimatologist Peter Gleick has said the next drought is always a matter of when — not if — and California should prepare accordingly.
If we can’t count on snow, water managers will need to get better at capturing rain and stormwater to make sure the wet times can get us through the dry.
“We need to be accelerating and expanding conservation and efficiency policies,” Gleick explained last April. “It’s precisely in the wet years, when we have a little breathing room, that we ought to be doing more to prepare for the dry years that we know are increasingly frequent.”
Today’s top stories
Climate and environment
- Love them or loathe them, pinyon-juniper woodlands are a growing biofuel battleground. Here’s how that fight is playing out in California, Nevada and the rest of the West.
- L.A. staved off disaster this time. But our luck is running out as extreme weather worsens.
- California’s war on plastic bag use seems to have backfired. Lawmakers are trying again.
- Seven City Council seats are on local primary ballots. Unions and business groups have unleashed a deluge of outside spending in some of those races.
- From working with Black Panthers to calling for cease-fire, Barbara Lee stands by her beliefs.
Crime and courts
- The prosecution has rested in Rebecca Grossman’s hit-and-run murder case. The presiding judge declined to dismiss murder charges against the socialite, who is accused of speeding through a marked crosswalk and striking and killing two boys.
- A couple who set off a pyrotechnic during a gender reveal party, sparking the deadly El Dorado Fire, has been sentenced following a plea deal. The 2020 blaze killed a firefighter, injured more than a dozen and destroyed five homes.
- A Westchester student is suing L.A. Unified, alleging she was sexual abused by an assistant basketball coach.
- Patrick Mahomes repeats greatness in Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVIII overtime win over 49ers.
- Usher brings quick-cut razzle-dazzle to the Super Bowl halftime show.
More big stories
- The street fight over robotaxis in San Francisco got even more heated this weekend. A crowd vandalized a Waymo vehicle before setting it on fire in the Chinatown neighborhood.
- Federal investigators are looking at weather as one of a few possible factors in a fatal helicopter crash in San Bernardino County. Six people were killed in the crash, including the CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks.
- California extends relief for homeowners who missed mortgage or tax payments.
- Your house has water damage from the storm. Now what?
- Tom Girardi left dozens of voicemails for The Times and a reporter investigating him. Was it a ploy?
- ‘This is just the biggest fiasco.’ College admissions upended by financial aid form glitches.
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Commentary and opinions
- George Skelton: Credit Newsom for trying to alleviate homelessness, not that he has much choice.
- Bill Shaikin: As Dodger Stadium gondola votes near, Frank McCourt makes his pitch. So do allies and opponents.
- Erika D. Smith: The many reasons MAGA’s love for San Francisco shouldn’t stop with the Super Bowl.
- LZ Granderson: Remember ‘Nipplegate’? 20 years later, we all owe Janet Jackson an apology.
- Editorial: A game changer to solve homelessness? Keeping people housed.
- Commentary: Biking in L.A. is fun. Now let’s make it safe.
- Steve Lopez: Is Biden impaired? Is Trump? Experts don’t know, but the issue is here to stay.
- Robin Abcarian: Elon Musk rides to the rescue of Gina Carano, fired by Disney for ‘abhorrent’ posts.
- Op-Comic: Ketamine had a reputation as a party drug. Could it help my depression?
Today’s great reads
She hopes CARE Court will save her husband. Two months in, she’s waiting for answers. Gardena resident Maria Macias hopes the state’s new CARE Court will save her husband, who struggles with mental illness and substance abuse. “You go to the court, you submit the paperwork they ask for, and there is no communication, no explanation for what’s going on,” she told The Times’ Thomas Curwen. “You’re left to wonder what more you can do.”
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For your downtime
- ? Set thousands of years before civilization, ‘Out of Darkness’ is eons-old horror by the book.
- ? Eat your feelings on Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped tacos, pizza and cake.
- ? It’s funny and cringey, but Andrew Ewell’s debut novel doesn’t live up to its potential.
- ? Though streaming and social media have upended how viewers consume late-night series, innovation on the shows themselves has been much more stagnant.
- ? Finn Bennett tells how Peter Prior’s shocking scene unfolded in ‘True Detective: Night Country.’
- ??? Here’s a recipe for shrimp in vanilla sauce from Papantla.
- ?? Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games.
And finally ... a great photo
Show us your favorite place in California! Send us photos you have taken of spots in California that are special — natural or human-made — and tell us why they’re important to you.
Today’s great photo is from Times staff photographer Allen J. Schaben, who captured the visually appealing aftermath of the latest SoCal storms: snowcapped mountains, a reminder that, yes, we do have winter! ??
Check out more great snow pics from Times photographers.
Have a great day, from the Essential California team
Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters