Valley Drought 2014: Will El Nino Be a Drought Buster?

El Nino refers to the "Christ child Jesus" because warming in the Pacific Ocean is usually noticed near South America around Christmas."Right now the current El Nino forecast is a 70 percent chance of an El Nino starting before the end of summer, 80 percent chance of a fall and winter El Nino but there's no estimate how strong it's going to get," says Gary Sanger of the National Weather Service. What remains to be seen is whether the next El Nino will be strong and create above normal rainfall.Fresno's average is 11 and a half inches a year. The El Nino could also be moderate or weak.Meteorologists don't get too excited with those two episodes."It certainly wouldn't be enough to end the California drought but every bit of rainfall we get would be helpful," says KMPH Chief Meteorologist Kevan Ramer.To create a strong El Nino, ocean surface temperatures have to climb by 1-point-5 degrees Celsius. That's nearly a three degree rise on the Fahrenheit scale.Meteorologist Steve Johnson who forecasts for a number of growers and water districts isn't optimistic."As the warm body comes closer and closer to the surface it is weakening.{} It doesn't look like anything like it did back then," he says. "And unless it passes that 1-point-5 degree anomaly then it's a crap shoot. It's a coin flip."Fresno just experienced the second driest year in history at 4.81 inches of rain from July 2013 to June 2014.A year earlier in the second year of our current drought rainfall was sixth worst on record at 5.67 inches.Brian Ochs of the National Weather Service has been studying El Nino's and their effect on Central California dating back to the 1950's.He did find one encouraging fact."When we talk about neutral El Nino's it's kind of hard to say which direction things are gonna go.{} Although for Fresno we found that with neutral El Nino's we've had average to above average rainfall," Ochs says.With the past two years ranking second and sixth on Fresno's driest of all time, average rainfall would be a welcome sight.Forecasters say within weeks the El Nino outlook will become much clearer.