News and Stories


August 21, 2015


According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the likelihood that California will experience an El Niño during the winter of 2015 is 90%; the NWS also advises that conditions could persist into the spring of 2016. It could bring much needed rain to the drought-stricken state, but not all El Niños are the same and too much rain may create different challenges for California agriculture.


What is an El Niño?

  • An El Niño is a temporary increase in the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean
    • The surface temperature of water typically increases only three to five degrees, however this change can significantly impact the climate
    • These conditions usually occur from December to February
  • During El Niños, winds from jet streams tend to attract heavy southbound storms to California

El Niño History:

  • El Niños have occurred throughout history, but were not recorded nor studied until 1982
  • The first predicted El Niño was in 1997—this is also the strongest El Niño to date

What does this mean for agriculture?

  • The soil may not be able to absorb all of the water from sudden/extreme storms
    • For example, during the 1997 El Niño, the city of Salinas received 29.13 inches of rain
    • The city normally receives 15.13 inches on average
  • Planting and harvesting could be interrupted due to rains, which could cause supply challenges
  • Flooding and supply disruptions may create obstacles during the winter harvesting season in Yuma, Arizona and the spring/summer planting and growing seasons in Salinas, California

What does this mean for the California drought?

  • Water levels are historically low; even if the state receives the same amount of rain that fell during the 1997 El Niño, it would not end the state’s water problems
  • California needs roughly 11 trillion gallons of water to end the drought
    • Improved infrastructure and water storage capacity are also needed to capture rain from an El Niño
    • Every second, approximately 700,000 gallons of water pour over Niagara Falls; it has been reported that it would take 178 days for 11 trillion gallons to flow over Niagara Falls
  • In addition to rain, snow is needed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; snowpack acts as storage that melts into water for the spring and summer months


Please contact your Markon customer service representative for more information.


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