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Climate Scientists See Evidence Drought Will End Next Winter

Climate Scientists See Evidence Drought Will End Next Winter

"The Blob" notwithstanding its silly name, this meteorological phenomenon could herald the impending end of California's devestating drought, according to JPL's Bill Patzert and other respected climate scientists.

First noticed in the fall of 2013, “The Blob” is about 1,000 miles in diameter and 300 feet deep. Technically called a “warm anomaly,” “The Blob” refers to an shapeless mass of water warmer than what surrounds it off the coast of North America. Unusually cold or warm water masses have been linked to climate patterns onshore, notably the wet phenomenon dubbed El Nino, and its dry counterpart, La Nina. Viewed on a map showing surface water temperatures off the coast, the great circular mass does indeed look like a blob. The Blob refers to an amorphous mass of water warmer than what surrounds it off the coast of North America. Unusually cold or warm water masses have been linked to climate patterns onshore, notably the wet phenomenon dubbed El Nino, and its dry counterpart, La Nina.Patzert sees the Blob as a precursor.
A mass of water warmer than what surrounds it in the Pacific has been dubbed "The Blob," and climate scientists believe it could be a drought buster. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News. The last time it appeared – in 1997 – it was followed within months by one of California's wettest El Nino winters ever. Indeed, satellite data reveal an unusually large mass of warm water in the equatorial Pacific, the trademark of El Nino, is now moving toward the Americas. If the El Nino continues developing as expected, so-called "pineapple express" storms would be expected to begin arriving next winter. Till then, California would still need to get through another dry summer. In recent weeks, after the past winter ended with a whimper, Gov. Jerry Brown set a statewide water conservation goal of 25 percent, and California's Water Resources Control Board has set specific reducation targets for individual water districts. Patzert urged Californians not to abandon conservation measures in expectation of relief nearly a year away. Even more significantly, other indicators dating back 16 months signal a shift in a longterm pattern that alternates between two phases, one conducive to El Ninos, the other to La Ninas. It's called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and its last shift to warmer and wetter weather in the Southwest coincided with the end of the major drought during the 1970s. There followed a series of wet El Nino winters during the next two decades. In the late 90s – after the El Nino Winter of '98 – the PDO shifted back to a cool, dry phase for the Southwest, coinciding with an extended period of below average precipitation in this region, culminating in the current drought now in its fourth year. The PDO shift will be a "drought buster," Patzert predicted.
California Drought-Map-2014

California Drought-Map-2014

"Whether it's this year or next, it's coming. This will not be a mega drought," Patzert said, quashing the notion that the type of decades-long drought that geological records indicate can occur every few centuries. However, climate patterns cannot be expected to replicate exactly what occurred during previous PDO phases, and could be affected by the even longer term pattern of global climate change. The looming El Nino has implications for the northeast as well, which just endured one of its coldest and snowiest winters on record. El Nino conditions typically result in milder winters in the U.S. northern tier.
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