Don't Blame It On El Niño

Don't Blame It On El Niño


I took this picture of humpback whales lunge feeding Monday near Moss Landing, CA. But it's NOT because of El Niño!

Though given the number of media linkages of El Niño to just about every marine animal story along the California coast the mythology has taken on a life of it's own.  There continues to be the misconception that because El Niño has something to do with warmer than normal somewhere in the Pacific AND waters along the California coast are warmer than normal THEN they are related.  They are not!

The current warm water anomalies along the California coast first showed up in February 2014 but the tropical Pacific (i.e., Niño 3.4 region) did not reach minimal El Niño strength until November 2014. 

[link to animated GIF of above image]

And this is not unique to this El Niño. Historical SST records of northern and central California SST anomalies show that during the five strong and very strong  El Niño events (1957-58, 1965-66, 1972-73, 1982-83, 1997-98) only two were warmer than normal.  And along the southern California coast, three of the five were about normal.

Jan Null, CCM
Golden Gate Weather Services