Animation Compares 1997 vs. 2015 El Niños Side-by-Side

{summary}The California Climate Blog has a great video comparing this year’s El Niño to 1997’s: Those similarities and differences matter because they can affect how an El Niño’s typical impacts on global weather — from drought to deluges — shape up, the reason it receives such rapt attention. ... “I was a little shocked just how closely 2015 resembles 1997 visually,” Rehme said in a statement. But as any El Niño researcher will tell you, no two El Niño events are alike, and the impacts from this one aren’t guaranteed to be just like 1997-1998. The most obvious difference between this year and that event, clearly visible in the animation, is the “blob” of warm water off the west coast of North America, a symptom of the relentless high pressure pattern that has kept the West hot and dry over much of the last few years and led to the deep drought in California. Right now, it is unclear how this warm patch will interact with the typical El Niño impacts (which aren’t guaranteed to materialize). That warmth could mean that any storms that hit drop more rain instead of much-needed snow that could help replenish depleted reservoirs.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It’s hard to tell what this means without knowing what these patterns look like in a typical year, but they do seem uncannily similar.

Aside from the usual unpredictability of El Niño effects, to the extent that this event looks to be unprecedented, the weather effects (OK, we mean rain) would presumably be even less predictable than usual. Hard to avoid a degree of optimism, though, since it will certainly mean some kind of change, and it can hardly get worse.

BTW, follow Daniel Swain @Weather_West for really good updates/links on the subject (hardly news to BP, I’m sure).

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The other thing I remember from my reading on El Niño is that its effect on precipitation in northern California is not nearly as strong or as predictable as it is in So Cal.