U.S. Geological Survey El Niño Information
Andy O’Neill, an oceanographer and meteorologist with the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, explained what El Niño is and how this year’s El Niño might affect Southern California in a webinar produced by University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant. Her half-hour presentation opened “El Niño: What to Expect for Southern California,” a professional-development webinar broadcast October 28, 2015 (see other webinars at http://dornsife.usc.edu/uscseagrant/adaptla-webinars/). O’Neill’s clear explanation of the many facets of this complex phenomenon included a description of the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) and its latest extreme-storm flooding projections for Southern California. Many California agencies are eager to use these projections in their El Niño planning.
For more information, contact Andy O’Neill, email@example.com,
The projected upsurge of severe El Niño and La Niña events will cause an increase in storms leading to extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to new research by USGS scientists at the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center and their collaborators at institutions in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, Japan, and the United States. These results are independent of projected sea-level rise, which alone could displace up to 187 million people worldwide by the end of the 21st century. Nature Geoscience published the findings on September 21, 2015.
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Winter storms modified by future climate changes, including sea-level rise, could mean costly damage to harbors, beaches, and businesses, especially during El Niño years, when atmospheric conditions bring heavy rains to the central California coast. The biggest storms tend to hit later in the year when beaches have already been heavily battered. In a populated area that relies on its coastline for much of its revenue—from people such as surfers, beach goers, sailors, kite surfers, divers, and fisherman—there is a great need to understand how big storms can shape and affect the coast. Perhaps storms will alter an important snowy plover habitat, shift a surf break, or erode natural beach protection for waterfront businesses such as those in Capitola. USGS scientists in Santa Cruz have a rare opportunity to work on these issues close to home and collect data that can affect a range of people and businesses within the Monterey Bay region. Studying these changes now will help researchers create models of future climatic changes that will erode and shape our coasts—a valuable tool for city planners, conservationists, and the tourism industry.
Read more about this new study.
Northern and Central California
The USGS conducts active research on identifying the triggering mechanisms and hazards associated with landsliding. In northern and central California, research efforts have predominantly focused on the San Francisco Bay area, and a number of research products are available that showcase the landslide effects of previous large winter storms to the region, including some related to El Niño events. These reports and maps can be used as examples of what may occur during the upcoming 2015-2016 El Niño season if heavy precipitation occurs. Visit the USGS Landslide Hazard Program's web site on El Niño and Landslides in Northern and Central California.
Like the northern part of the state, southern California is well known to be susceptible to landslides. Some are triggered by earthquakes, but more frequently landslides are caused by intense and/or prolonged rainfall. Some, but not all, of the major winter storms that have caused landslide fatalities and property damage in southern California have occurred during El Niño (1997-98 info) conditions. The USGS has a long history of research to identify landslide hazards in southern California. Visit the USGS Landslide Hazard Program's web site on El Niño and Landslides in Southern California.
NOAA’s El Niño Portal