El Niño storm approaching

Canceled classes, inside-out umbrellas, fallen trees and drenched clothes are all viable scenarios for this year’s El Niño, according to statistics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting this year’s El Niño to be among the strongest on record and is expected to influence weather and climate patterns this winter by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream.

The waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean are heating up, scientists say, building towards an El Niño with the intensity level of the 1997 weather anomaly.

“There is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 85 percent chance it will last into early spring 2016,” the NOAA said in a statement.

Although some theories claim global warming will affect El Niños in the future, The United Nations says confidence is low that this is the case. Despite this, one of the likely by-products of global warming is more extreme precipitation, as warmer temperatures can hold more water vapor in the atmosphere; thus making El Niño floods even more devastating.          

“I remember last year right before winter break there was a lot of flooding around campus due to all the rain,” Sophomore Ella Corbett said. “There was a huge puddle in front of my dorm, making it difficult to get up the stairs.”

Extreme weather phenomenons such as these require preparation to ensure a safe environment for the community. The County of Sonoma Emergency Operations Center provides prompt and accurate information regarding current weather conditions to the general public, media, and local agencies during period of potential emergency.

The Auxiliary Communications Service is another branch of the Sonoma County Department that aids in providing the community with valuable time-sensitive information. The radio is part of local government and operates under the Authority of the Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

ACS may provide communications support using amateur radio, cellular and regular phones, computers, email, internet, public service radio satellite, television, and video-conference systems; as well as field and in-office support of personnel, in order to maintain the highest possible level of staff and equipment readiness.

The program currently has 130 people ready to respond at any given time and also takes volunteers to assist in broadcasting news during emergency situations.          

During the flood season last year, Petaluma opened the Emergency Operations Center in anticipation of the city experiencing localized flooding. A shelter was also opened at the Petaluma Community Center to support anyone affected by the weather. Similar measures will be taken this year in order to accommodate the extreme climate.

Hopes are high that this year’s El Niño will compensate for the drought that California has experienced throughout the past few years.


“Chances are 50/50 of the El Niño delivering a wet winter,” said California Climatologist Michael Anderson.


According to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the NOAA’s climate prediction center, California needs one and a half times the amount of normal rainfall to pull itself out of the drought.