El Nino and the California Drought 

A strong El Nino (substantially above average warming of the Eastern Pacific) has begun this summer and fall — and such trends usually last for a considerable period of time. The El Nino pattern significantly affects weather across the United States. This may be good news for California, which has been in a drought for four years. Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce), speculate the El Nino will bring above-average rainfall (and snowfall in the mountains) to California this winter, thereby mitigating California’s long drought.

According to the U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA), over half of the fruit, nuts and vegetables produced in America are grown in California. Consequently, relief of California’s drought will save these crops from the ravages of further drought and, consequently, tend to prevent or reduce price increases next year in many of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables one buys at the grocery store.

Just how much El Nino contributes to keeping these food prices down depends on how far into the mountains of California the El Nino trend penetrates and on whether the precipitation increase this winter falls in these mountains as rain, with only a temporary favorable effect, or as snow with a more long-lasting drought relief effect. (For an in-depth breakdown, see http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-el-nino-drought-20151016-story.html).

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