El Niño won't end drought nor ease fire risk

NOAA image of El Nino

NOAA image

There's been a lot of talk about the possibility of an El Niño bailing out California and ending the drought. Not going to happen, say those who obsessively study these matters. And what’s more, an El Niño won’t do much to improve the state’s ready-to-burn fire conditions.

Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, says simply, don't count on El Niño:

Transcript of Jay Lund on El Niño.

And Mark Schwartz, who studies the impact of drought on wildfires as director of the UC Davis John Muir Institute of the Environment says even one strong El Niño is not enough:

Transcript of Mark Schwartz on El Niño.

An El Niño will not likely snuff out this year’s fire season, which started in January, says Schwartz:

Transcript of Mark Schwartz on El Niño not easing fire risk.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has already battled more than 3,400 wildfires since the beginning of the year, and fire conditions now are as bad as those typically seen in late fall.

Lund says the drought is likely to continue through 2015 – regardless of El Niño conditions. However, certain parts of the state might actually benefit from El Niño:

Transcript on Jay Lund saying Southern California will benefit most from El Niño.

What about next year? Lund says statistics from the state Department of Water Resources show if the state is critically dry in a particular year, then chances are more than double the next year will be critically dry. That means there’s a 30 percent chance next year will be critically dry…again.

As Lund said at a recent National Press Club news conference, “Don’t count on El Niño, it’s not relevant to ending this drought.”