Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Where is El Niño?

While El Niño's impact has been felt in other areas of the world, its impact on Southern California has been trivial thus far.  Northern California has received somewhat higher rainfall this year and the snow levels in the north, the biggest contributor to fighting drought in the future, are good but those storms have been fueled by weather conditions in the northern Pacific, not El Niño storms from the west.  Only the storms during the first week of January here were fueled by El Niño and, in my particular location, those brought just 1.25 inches of rain.  As was true in prior years, a ridge of high pressure has prevented any significant rain from reaching us but the forecasters are still predicting that El Niño will come through, although perhaps not until February or March.

The best news at present is that we did get a little rain this week thanks to a storm out of Northern California.  We were given a 20-30% chance of receiving up to 1/10th of an inch of rain but, in my area, we got a little over three times that much.  My plants and I are happy, at least for the moment.

Rain drops on Arthropodium cirratum

Leucadendron 'Pisa'

Stipa tenuissima

Even Agave 'Jaws' looks good washed clean by the rain


The rainwater I've drained from my collection tanks has been replenished and I refilled my garden trugs twice before the latest storm moved on.

This is literally a drop in the bucket but my 50, 160 and 265-gallon tanks are also full


I'm grateful for the 475 gallons of water I've got stored but hauling it around my half-acre property is hard work so I hope El Niño does come through next month, dropping rain at a measured pace rather than all at once.  Our rain totals in SoCal remain significantly below "normal."


The year-to-date total reflects the rain received since the rainy season began on October 1st 2015


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

34 comments:

  1. For us it was supposed to be colder and, until last night, that hadn't come to pass either. Now the temps are rising again. It will be double figures, even at night, by the weekend. Love Agave 'Jaws'!

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  2. Well, you said it. What a disaster. I planted all my pots in hopes of the ground getting and retaining water. Now I will have to hand water them for a long spell, most likely another year. I will not, I will NOT, plant anything more in the ground, in this desert, this year. El Nino is a bad, bad boy. The forecasters have been tricked. I no longer have any faith in them. At least they could have been more wishy washy in their predictions. But seriously, I know that it is garbage in, garbage out; that a model cannot model if the data is not there, and it isn't. Whew! Shed a few pounds getting that burden off my chest or back.

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    1. In the early discussions of this season's El Nino, I remember comments warning that, while ocean temps are at record highs, the winds must also blow in the right direction and the latter hadn't been demonstrated. Perhaps even scientists get carried away by the media hype. I'm still holding out hope that the rains come in February/March - I'm just not counting on it.

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  3. We've had rain on and off all week up here; the garden is mighty saturated ! I finally got out to prune a few more roses today, but rain will be back tomorrow. The rain is welcome but the resultant weeds are not.

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    1. Well, at least NorCal is going to help the state out a little with the drought this year, Kathy! It's not at all clear whether SoCal will do its part.

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  4. I guess some rain is better than none, but I agree that el nino so far has been a bust. Half the time, the 'storms' don't even make it over the mountains to us. Your agave 'Jaws' looks great!

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    1. The storms from the north aren't bringing us much either, Renee. Fingers are crossed that pattern changes (preferably without burying us in mudslides).

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  5. I don't think that El Niño has been a bust, not even for a second. It's just shifted the rainy pattern further north than hoped for. I know that if I had anything to do with it you would be getting the loins share of it, not us.

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    1. Well, I hope Mother Nature changes her tact soon, Loree - for both our sakes.

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  6. As Loree mentioned, El Nino seems to be stalled up here giving us a lot of rain which we all would just LOVE to give to y'all! Your plants look lovely washed clean and given a nice drink from the sky and I bet the smell of rain on your previously dry garden is intoxicating!

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    1. Maybe we can trade-off - one day of rain for you, one for us, one for you, etc...

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  7. I'm wondering the same thing, Kris. On the positive side, this intermittent light rainfall every couple weeks should be getting the ground ready for the predicted heavy rain in February/March. I vividly remember that last El Nino, when my mom drove the boys home from school and nearly got stranded in the street, water up to the windows. Exciting times! Lots of abandoned cars in the roads turned into rivers. That El Nino finally made Long Beach get serious about its storm drains, keeping them clear.

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    1. Yes, I keep reminding myself that the light rainfall we've received this far is good preparation for the later arrival of the heavier rains but I worry that this could be another El Nino fizzle. The garage at our former house flooded repeatedly during the last El Nino and I've heard that a lot of trees came down in my current community so I'm respectful of its destructive power. Hopefully, the preparations we've all made will be enough, assuming the rain does manage to cut through that ridge of high pressure.

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  8. I wish we could send you some of our rain. The UK had the wettest December ever recorded.
    I love that Agave.

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    1. I've seen various movies in which someone has taken control of the weather to use it for his (the perpetrator always seems to be male) purposes but that never seems to end well. It's too bad - I find the idea of a humane character distributing rain for the good of all very appealing.

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  9. Hauling water is such a chore. Gardening the hard way, no question. We here in Central Texas have seen little of the projected benefits of El Niño either, though I'm hopeful we'll get a bit more rain before the heat begins again. We must all keep in mind these are weather predictions, not guarantees, and they are generated for large areas that will experience a range of conditions rather than a uniform experience. That said, it does seem a few may have gotten carried away by the hype (me included!).

    I'm loving the photos of plants dripping wet however. Here's to rain and hopes for more to come.

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    1. The hype really did seize control of our imaginations this year, Deb. I'm generally a "I'll believe it when I see it" person but, after the near-daily articles on El Nino, it became nearly impossible to believe it might not deliver on its promise. I think the general frustration with the drought and water restrictions have made El Nino seem like the hero on the white horse riding to California's rescue (even though everyone hastens to clarify that even rains like those in 1997-98 won't end our drought).

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  10. I imagine xerophytic gardening in your climate can be bit of a challenge, but your garden always looks beautiful to me! It gives me further appreciation and gratitude for the rainfall we receive. Water is precious!

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    1. There's nothing like drought to remind you exactly how precious water is. I literally think about how to minimize my water use every single time I turn on the tap now.

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  11. I'm really sorry Il Ninò isn't bringing you the rain you need. The high pressure from Siberia is bringing us very cold nights and the daytime temperatures aren't much higher, but it is sunny so I'm quite happy as it is good to have some cold weather during the winter. I'm really impressed with all the water you collect and store, I feel we should have a tank too as when it does rain I'm sure we could collect a lot from the run off from the roof.

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    1. It's truly incredible how much water comes off the roof with even a relatively light rain, Christina!

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  12. I know where El Nino has dumped all the rain so far – in Britain!! We had flooding on the west coast for weeks on end before we finally got the cold snap 10 days ago. Today it’s back to mild, rainy weather and down here in the south-east we are still safe from flooding but a few more days like this and it’s back to more misery for other parts of the country. I wish I could send you all the rain I have had today, it’s been raining non-stop since last night :-)

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    1. I hope you dry out soon, Helene! The world's weather has become unpredictable, if not downright scary.

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  13. You must be so happy to be getting rain after all of those months and years of drought! I hope you get some more so you don't have to keep lugging water about the garden.

    Last week I was listening to Marketplace and there was a story about how LA only keeps 8% of rain run-off due to engineering in the 30s after disastrous floods but is working to improve that percentage.

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    1. Yes, the dialogue about rain capture is hot and heavy here but it remains to be seen if anything comes of all the discussion. Meanwhile, I'm trying to capture what I can but, as most of our rain arrives within our relatively short winter rainy season, my personal storage capacity limits what I can do - 475 gallons goes only so far if it's not replenished at regular intervals.

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  14. Nice weather station there, and congrats on getting at least a little rain. Here, the driveway got slightly damp is all. Not "measurable". I've been watering with watering cans (until my eye had another issue)--I think of it as weight training for upper body strength.

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    1. I'm thinking I should get one of those wooden poles to balance on my shoulders to support the buckets I'm carrying around...

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  15. Wishing you healthy rains in the weeks to come. -Jean

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    1. I've used a form of olla Mary Kathryn, although not extensively. A friend of mine has been experimenting with burying sections of plastic pipe filled with gravel in the ground to facilitate irrigation in some areas and I'm thinking of trying that approach in some of the the difficult sloped areas of my garden.

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  17. I've heard El Nino called El Noshow! I hope it comes through for you but hooray for those rain barrels. 475 is a lot of water. :o)

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