Log In

Enter your username and password below

Relief Coming for Drought-Ravaged California?

After two long years of forecasts, calculations, and waiting, it’s finally happening…

The global weather event called El Niño is back.

This happens every few years, when the waters in the Pacific Ocean, primarily off the coast of South America, become warmer. This heats the air above the ocean and disrupts the normal west-to-east flow of Pacific winds. In turn, this shifts the usual areas of cloud formation, causing unusual fluctuations in rainfall and temperatures.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology recently joined the U.S. Climate Prediction Center and the Japan Meteorological Agency in saying that Pacific Ocean temperatures have risen enough to trigger the effect.

They also agree that – while it could bring relief to certain regions like drought-crippled California – it’s going to wreak havoc worldwide…

Forecasters Unite Behind “Super El Niño”

The effects of an El Niño can be far-reaching and varied. In 1982, for example, a larger-than-usual El Niño caused droughts in some places, widespread flooding in others, and almost gave the United States a year without a winter.

The last El Niño in 2010 caused droughts in India and Australia.

The common denominator is widespread chaos. Even small El Niños can upend the usual climate patterns enough to cause serious damage and even death.

They’re also notoriously tough to predict.

Both the U.S. and Japanese authorities started by saying that this year’s El Niño would be mild. In fact, the Japanese even said that the effect had already happened, faded away, and then returned!

Australia veered in the opposite direction, with its head of climate modeling, David Jones, stating, “This will be a substantial event.”

Last Thursday, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center changed its mind and upgraded the forecast, too, saying the El Niño will be stronger this year than it originally thought.

If they’re right, look out!

Scientists fear that a strong El Niño, combined with ocean temperatures that are already warming from global climate change, could trigger a “Super El Niño.”

What does this mean?

Relief for California?

For California, mired in a four-year drought that’s one of the worst in its history, the prospect of an “El Niño” is music to residents’ ears, given that these events mostly bring extensive rainfall.

But in its current parched condition, it’s also a doubled-edged sword.

On the one hand, the state desperately needs the rain, and El Niño could break up the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge that Wall Street Daily Founder, Robert Williams, told you about last year. But too much rain all at once could trigger other disasters like flooding, landslides, and crop destruction.

If this year’s El Niño is indeed an especially heavy one, much of the world would experience highly unusual weather events.

In addition to possible drought relief in California, other areas like South America could see much heavier rainfall than normal. And while it would prove priceless in refilling reservoirs, the downsides are serious.

Conversely, places like Australia and much of Asia are prone to drought in El Niño conditions.

So what’s the prognosis?

And the Forecast Is…

While there are no guarantees, all signs point to havoc.

Economically, crops and even mining would be affected in many areas. And while there’s little chance of a global food shortage, food prices could fluctuate wildly. Localized areas without the resources to import large quantities of food could endure terrible results.

Indeed, cocoa futures are already rising, as traders anticipate smaller-than-normal yields in the main cocoa-growing areas of western Africa.

Bottom line: El Niño events are always unpredictable and different across the world. Higher global temperatures could exacerbate El Niño effects in some areas, but mute it or even change things entirely in others. And, of course, as with all weather prognosticators, the forecasts could turn out to be completely wrong!

However, with the tools available to climatologists becoming more sophisticated every year, the prospect of everyone being completely wrong is highly doubtful. It’s time for the world to buckle up, because El Niño is coming.

To living and investing in the future,

Greg Miller

Greg Miller

, Senior Analyst

View More By Greg Miller