El Niño 2015-2016

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The winter of 2015-16 is delivering a major El Niño event to the West Coast with temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean currently 2℃ (3.6 degrees ℉) above normal. Projections show this year's event to be on par with El Niños in 1982-83 and 1997-98, which were the largest in recent history. These events produced instances of record precipitation, intense storm surges, and periods in which sea level was several inches above normal for months at a time. 

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego brings several decades of innovation in El Niño observation and forecasting to the study of this year's event. Scripps Oceanography is providing data to help officials and the public prepare for potential coastal impacts and flooding caused by intensified precipitation.

Just In....

Encinitas Tracking El Niño's Impact on Beach Encinitas Advocate story on the city's collaboration with Scripps Oceanography tracking the movement of sand this season

Hurricane Hunters Make First Flights into Atmospheric Rivers, Key to Weather Extremes in the West Washington Post story on series of flights through atmospheric rivers that take advantage of El Niño season

El Niño Beach Survey Provides Glimpse of What’s to Come for the Coast Scripps physical oceanographers are performing detailed topographical surveys of the Southern California coastline as a rapid response to El Niño​

A Scientist's Life: Sarah Giddings  A profile of Scripps coastal oceanographer Sarah Giddings, whose current research on estuaries takes advantage of the El Niño season to preview how estuaries might change in the future

Scripps Science Responds to El Niño An overview of El Niño-related projects taking place at Scripps Oceanography

El Niño Still Strong Despite Warmer Temperatures 10News story on winter outlook provided by climate experts from Scripps Oceanography and other research centers

To Prepare for Climate Change, California Sea Grant Funds Emergency Research on El Niño Storms  California Sea Grant story on research being performed at Scripps Oceanography and elsewhere in response to historic season

Citizen Scientists Learn to Document El Niño's Impacts KPBS story on training session for locals documenting El Niño effects on area beaches

Webinar: "California Winter Status Update" Climate experts from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Desert Research Institute, and UC Santa Barbara deliver an update on this El Niño season during a webinar starting at 1 p.m. Jan. 26. The briefing is hosted by the California-Nevada Applications Program at Scripps Oceanography and the National Integrated Drought Information System. 

"After Wet Week, Where's El Niño?"  San Diego Union-Tribune story on the status of El Niño.

Citizen Science Beach Walk and Training Session On Jan. 20, researchers with the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System will lead participants on a beach walk and offer a training session on how to create a photographic record of coastal change during this year's El Niño season. 

El Niño Impacts Estuary researcher Sarah Giddings' special El Niño page gives readers an introduction to how estuaries can change dramatically following storm events and describes how the public can help document this year's historic event. 

A Tour of El Niño Scripps Oceanography scientists describe how climate researchers first became aware of El Niño during one of the most destructive events of the past century. They discuss what has changed since then and how Scripps is helping the public get ready this year.

KPBS Launches Drought Tracker Station offers an interactive update on California's water levels with help from Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers

Citizen Science Will Help Assess Effects of El Niño Scientists enlist the public to help document anticipated major climate event 

Is This the Last Year Below 400?  Scripps Oceanography geochemist Ralph Keeling predicts that El Niño will boost concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere just enough so that levels of the greenhouse gas will not dip below 400 parts per million again in our lifetimes. 

Events

March 14, 2016

Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture - El Niño and Our Urban Ocean

Julie Thomas, Executive Director, Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System
Sarah Giddings, Assistant Professor, Coastal Oceanography

Southern California has been bracing for the effects of a strong El Nino year, with concerns about large surf, heavy rainfall, and coastal flooding on the minds of all of us who call the Southern California Coast home. Join us to learn about how El Nino is impacting our urban coastal zone and how coastal monitoring, including a community-based observing program, Urban Tides, is essential for informing how we adapt to rising seas.

March 5, 2016

Beach Walk at Torrey Pines

On March 5, Scripps coastal oceanographer Sarah Giddings will lead volunteers on a beach walk to learn how El Niño is shaping beaches and cliffs and show them how members of the public can help scientists document these changes. Meet at 3:30 p.m. at south parking lot of Torrey Pines State Reserve. 

Jan. 26, 2016

Webinar: "California Winter Status Update" 
Climate experts from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the Desert Research Institute, and UC Santa Barbara deliver an update on this El Niño season during a webinar starting at 1 p.m. Jan. 26. The briefing is hosted by the California-Nevada Applications Program at Scripps Oceanography and the National Integrated Drought Information System. Researchers will present the region’s current weather and climate outlook with a focus on El Niño conditions and water supplies. Stakeholders and the general public are invited to tune in.

Jan. 20, 2016 
La Jolla Shores Beach and Martin Johnson House
Urban Tides Community Science Beach Walk and Training: Capture the Future of our Urban Ocean
researchers with the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System will lead participants on a beach walk and offer a training session on how to create a photographic record of coastal change during this year's El Niño season. 

Nov. 19, 2015 Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society, and the Environment Winter 2015-2016 Outlook: El Niño, Storms and Ocean Conditions: UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California Department of Water Resources, and National Weather Service host a public discussion about the latest El Niño conditions and impacts on the San Diego region that are likely to occur. Experts will share information about this winter's weather, climate and water supply, marine and coastal conditions, and impacts on ocean life.   Sept. 22, 2015 California State Library, Sacramento, Calif.  Changing Ocean Conditions: Understanding El Niño’s Impacts on California’s Living Marine Resources Through Ocean Observations A California Ocean Protection Council workshop on El Niño’s impacts on marine life. Panel discussion will include input from Scripps physical oceanographer Dan Rudnick, biological oceanographer David Checkley, and Cheryl Peach, director of Scripps Educational Alliances at Scripps Oceanography.    Sept. 9, 2015 Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society, and the Environment El Niño Watch: Although El Nino isn’t climate change, many of the things that will happen during an El Niño give scientists great insights into sea-level rise impacts and adaptation. Scripps Oceanography is hosting an El Niño Watch Briefing and Reception  for regional industry and decision makers. The event will provide an overview, up-to-date forecasting, and potential impacts of strong El Niño conditions.  An interactive discussion highlighting three opportunities for the public participation in citizen science will follow.  Because warm El Niño waters bring with them temporary sea level rise, Scripps scientists will also discuss how winter storms during El Niño periods can serve as a proxy for future sea-level rise.  Observations during this period can inform decision makers about future sea-level rise impacts and inform adaptation strategies.  Our scientists will make additional observations this winter to help improve models of regional impacts and improve forecasting.

Related Stories

 

Analysis

 

Related Links

  • NOAA Sea-Level Rise Viewer:  Simulate sea-level rise scenarios for coastlines around the country.
  • Urban Tides Community Science Initiative: Scripps estuarine dynamics researcher Sarah Giddings is collaborating with this University of Southern California-based initiative to document El Niño-related changes to the Southern California coastline. Site includes directions for signing on to a mobile app that enables users to submit photos of the coastline as storms make landfall. 
  • NOAA Climate Prediction Center El Niño Updates: This page includes a discussion of El Niño conditions and predictions that is updated weekly.
  • Southern California El Niño Index: This index uses data collected from Spray gliders that travel along a transect originating near Dana Point, Calif. Sea surface temperature data from Spray strongly correlate to eastern Pacific Ocean temperature data gathered at the equator. There the presence of relatively warm water is a defining characteristic of El Niño conditions.
  • Scripps El Niño Forecast Model: Scripps climate researchers employ computer models to project conditions for the coming season. The forecast is updated monthly.
  • Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) Three-Day Flooding and Storm Surge Index: Offers wave and tide data from 38 stations between San Diego and Santa Barbara and forecasts of water elevation and flooding potential. 

 

Related Scripps Researchers

 

Related Scripps Labs and Centers

 

   

Related Video: How Does El Niño Affect California?

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