El Niño: Where Is Southern California’s Rain

/El Niño: Where Is Southern California’s Rain

El Niño: Where Is Southern California’s Rain

Good morning Weather2020 bloggers,

The warm weather pattern continues for the next few days and there are big changes showing up by the weekend. In today’s blog entry we will discuss El Niño and some uncharacteristic things already happening in this weather pattern. We will take a look into this weekend’s storm, and the next two storm systems to follow as a series of storm systems is setting up.

We are currently moving into the winter season with one of the strongest El Niño’s in history. The Climate Prediction Center has stated and shown that typical El Niño results are likely. And, one of the big characteristics is for it to be drier farther north along the Pacific northwest coast, and possibly wetter across Southern California where they really could use some rain. Thus far, it has been the exact opposite. Let’s take a look at this developing pattern.

3The flow aloft is zonal today. Zonal flow means west to east. The flow is about to buckle big time in the next three to four days. Between now and then this will lead to the big warm-up that has been in progress this week.

There are a few things to notice on this map, and in the developing weather pattern between now and Christmas.

  • The first thing is that zonal flow
  • The second thing to notice is the lack of any blocking. You can see this in the stream of flow tracking over the far northern territories of Canada near the North Pole.  This is another symptom of the Arctic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation staying mostly in the positive.

The buckling begins within the next two days. Take a look at the 72 hour forecast valid Friday night:

1Again, by Friday night there is a northern stream, no blocking, and a huge dip in the flow developing over the southwestern United States. In our winter forecast we described this type of pattern as the dominant pattern #1 in this year’s winter forecast, which will also have huge impacts next spring.  This trough developing by late Friday night will produce the conditions for a wet storm system. Yesterday, one of the models had enough cold air to produce a strong winter side of this storm, but the trend on the models has been for it to not be cold enough for any snow with this first storm. It is still something to monitor closely, but some very warm and humid air will be drawn in from the Gulf of Mexico.

The other thing to notice is the rainfall forecast for the next 15 days. Where is the rain in Southern California? Are you ready for this? Look at the rainfall amounts since the rainy season began in October in Los Angeles:

  • October rainfall:  0.45″
  • November rainfall:  0.01″
  • December rainfall:  0.00″

This was not supposed to be happening and I have concerns. Central California has been getting some rain and snow, and Lake Tahoe has been getting some decent early season snow, but there seems to be a rain shadow just south of Monterey Bay.  Take a look at this rainfall forecast for the next 15 days leading into Christmas Day.  In a typical El Niño it supposed to be drier than average over the Pacific Northwest, and this is not happening at all. The pattern has set up to blast the Pacific Northwest Will it continue through this winter, or will the jet stream shift south in January and February? It may depend on the blocking that is lacking.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 6.54.10 AM

In Kansas City we are still waiting for our first inch of snow. I will update our forecast for chances of the snowflake contest ending between now and Christmas on tonight’s weathercasts on 41 Action News, which you can watch streaming live on www.kshb.com during our newscast times. Last night I showed that there was just a 20% chance of it ending by Monday, but an 80% chance of it ending before Christmas Day. There is a series of storm systems that are cycling through the flow during these next two weeks.

2The models have been just horrible at predicting this pattern in the past few days. Why? The models will always have a difficult time forecasting when the flow will buckle, and then how the energy, the strong and powerful jet stream energy that continues to increase, will dive in and out of the less zonal and more meridional (North/south) developing flow. The GFS model now predicts that a piece of this first storm will close off and take a track that would usually produce a major snowstorm near KC. It appears that it will be too warm. And, then as you can see on the left, the flow continues to buckle near the west coast.

4This next map on the right shows the flow at day 10. This is the GFS model showing the two stream joining forces. The European model has been hinting at something similar. That is a big ridge forming off the west coast. I doubt it will last that long, but it should create the conditions for at least some build-up of Arctic air and some of it could push south. Analyzing this closely, however, I still see very little blocking, and the AO and NAO indexes may dip just to below neutral into negative territory before rising back up again.

Overall, we are about to have significant changes. El Niño is very strong. How is all of this going to impact winter? Winter officially begins in less than two weeks.

Have a great day. Thank you for participating in the  LRC Forecast Experience Blog. We will discuss the trends in the comments section of this blog.



2015-12-09T06:43:26+00:00December 9th, 2015|General|0 Comments

No Comments

  1. AW December 9, 2015 at 7:35 am - Reply

    I always pick the 3rd Saturday of December cause, I don’t know why, but we usually get snow around that weekend. The last time it didn’t happen was 2011, I believe.

  2. terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Gary you’re talking about a serious storms before like 3 storms before Christmas and are chances of snow are likely. Do you still expect a big storm between Christmas and New Years and even a bigger storm after the new year?

    • Gary December 9, 2015 at 8:40 am - Reply


      I am not saying three chances of snow at all. One or two of these storm systems may finally have some cold air to work with however. I am just saying three strong storm systems, and then we have to see where they will track, and how much cold air there will be. The big stormy part of the pattern will happen right near the end of the year and for the first four weeks of January, basically January. There are too many storm systems in this year’s LRC, and KC is closer to the right spot, for us to not get a few snows.


      • terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 9:02 am - Reply

        Gary you said. There are too many storm systems in this year’s LRC , and Kc is closer to the right Spot, for us to not get get a few snows? Can you clarify on what you mean by this comment please Gary?

        So you are saying we are close to the right spot for us to get a few good snow’s this winter ?

        • MMike December 9, 2015 at 9:07 am - Reply


          There’s nothing to clarify, all he is suggesting is that there will be plenty of storms and a few will have the potential for snow….as most do during the winter months.

          You can’t peel the onion anymore…….


          You the MAN!! Always enjoy reading your thoughts.

          My thoughts, very little snow and plenty of moisture. All these strong storms are bringing way too much warm air out in front of them. The grass will be growing in late Feb….that’s if it stops at all.

          • terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 10:11 am - Reply

            MMIKE I wasn’t for sure what he was meaning by some of his comment. But now I know he was meaning. That KC is close to the right Spot for us to get a few good snow’s this winter.

            Even if we do have warm winter there will be enough cold air as we get deeper in to winter for us to have enough snow this winter. Us Gary has stated him self to before this winter.

            • MMike December 9, 2015 at 10:21 am - Reply


              The storms do look like they will target KC this winter….we just can’t get any cold air going…it will be tough all winter long. We’ll have to catch lighting in a bottle a few times for some big snows.

              Hopefully we can find some cold soon. I sure hate when we have great storm structures and no cold to work with. Nothing worse then rain in December and January. (that’s if you’re a snow lover…I AM!!!)

              • terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 10:31 am

                I think will get enough cold air times for us to have a few good snow’s so we really can’t rule out all cold air and remember in November we had the blizzards out west in Kansas them storms where able to have enough cold air for that to happen. That part will be returning first four weeks or so January like Gary mention on my comment. I’m really thinking we’re going to get a ice storm this winter.

      • Alice December 9, 2015 at 9:20 am - Reply

        This from the KSHB blog that you posted yesterday……

        “Here is a chance of our first snow forecast based on what we know about this pattern:

        Chance of the snowflake contest ending by Monday: 20%
        Chance of the snowflake contest ending by the 18th, a week from Friday: 60%
        Chance of the snowflake contest ending by Christmas Day: 80%
        Chance of the snowflake contest continuing after Christmas Day: 20%
        We see three pretty strong storm systems in our area between now and Christmas, so I will be surprised if we get past Christmas without an inch of snow. The latest data had well over five inches of snow in our area, but this was just one model with very little support from any other models at the moment. Of course, we use the LRC and this is what gives me quite a bit more confidence in either Sunday or mid-next week to end the contest. Good luck!”

        My question is, how things change so fast from one day to the next….I realize that models change from run to run. But even last night on the 6 pm you told Christa we could end the contest on Sunday. Did you get modelitis yesterday ?

        • MMike December 9, 2015 at 9:35 am - Reply

          Nothing has changed Alice, he said it might end Sunday, but only left it at a slight chance. The storm potential has been there all along, it was a question whether enough cold could sneak into the system. His thoughts on snow before Christmas have been the same.

          He only discussed the GFS from yesterday, he didn’t say it will snow Sunday.

          • MMike December 9, 2015 at 9:36 am - Reply

            Too many people often mix discussion with actual forecasts.

            • Alice December 9, 2015 at 10:08 am - Reply

              Thanks Mike

  3. Bill in Lawrence December 9, 2015 at 8:02 am - Reply


    Good Morning to you sir!!!

    I am going to sound like a broken record but that has never stopped me before!! 

    To me the most interesting part about the next 2-3 weeks is the fact that there is now pretty consistent forecast that the AO is indeed going to go negative around the 16th of December and is currently beginning that dip. Some ensembles have it going as low as negative 2.5 and one even as low as negative 3. There are some ensembles that have it just going neutral and then heading straight back to positive, but most ensembles have consistently showed it going into negative territory and even remaining that way for 3-4 days. I would argue that there is more to this than just the forecasts that this very much fits the LRC and what we saw in mid-October with the AO. I wondered at the time if it was the new pattern or a combination of the old and the new LRC developing. I do believe that this dip is part of the new of LRC.

    In cycle one this just corresponded to a week of below average temps and all of the energy was way north as one would expect in October. However, now it is December and the whole pattern is a bit more juiced so we will have some different results at the surface as the pattern is more energized. Similar to the little storm we had early this week in spring or early summer could produce a bigger area of rain or even thunderstorms.
    Whatever the case until the operational models have this idea of the negative AO implemented into them they are going to be way off beyond day 5. I also think we are in for a fun ride beginning around the 16th.

    Of course at the end of the day, this could indeed all be a broken record…but that has never stopped me from posting my random thoughts!!!  I hope some of it makes sense!!

    Have a great day everyone and enjoy this weather…it is beautiful!!!! 

    Bill in Lawrence

    • Gary December 9, 2015 at 8:38 am - Reply


      Thank you so much for you input and passion. I am concerned that the AO will dip to near or just below the zero line, and then go back up. We can hope for a more negative solution, but the trend in the main models of the GFS, Euro, and Canadian model have been for it to stay unblocked. Either way, we have some big storm systems in the forecast between now and Christmas. We just need a little cold air.


  4. Kathy December 9, 2015 at 8:56 am - Reply

    My takeaway from your blog today is that (1) Southern CA is not getting much relief from this powerful El Nino and that most of the storms are hitting the NW part of the country; and (2) we will probably have a cold, miserable rain at the Chief’s game. It also appears that this LRC is impacting areas east of here not nearly as much as it did in previous years which makes me very happy. I was so tired of storms “maturing east of us”. Anxious to see what this pattern holds for the central plains this spring. Thanks for a great blog today. A lot of thought and research have gone into your recent blogs and they are a enjoyable to read.

    • MMike December 9, 2015 at 9:12 am - Reply


      I’m thinking the rain may get out of here by game time. Rain, maybe a few thunderstorms late Saturday into Sunday morning. I’m not sure this event is going to be a 24 hour steady rain deal…..I could be wrong.

      • Kathy December 9, 2015 at 9:55 am - Reply

        Mike, I hope you are right. I will be watching from the comfort of my home. However, I have a feeling a lot of people will be at Arrowhead and I would hate to see them get soaked. Sun or rain: GO CHIEFS!!!

  5. MMIke December 9, 2015 at 10:17 am - Reply


    Darn it….the latest GFS has a nice track on the ULL…but not cold enough…so no snow. But, it does look like it may rain most of the day. It’s possible we might get the rain/thunderstorms Saturday night into Sunday morning, then a break, then the second wave of moisture late in the day.

    Anyone else see it that way??

    • Alice December 9, 2015 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Can you give a link to the gfs that you use ? I have never looked at one….but would like to. I probably will not even know what I am looking at/ for, but so many of the bloggers on here use them. I would like to see what everyone else is seeing, from run to run. Thanks

      • MMike December 9, 2015 at 11:01 am - Reply


        You can go to the NWS and click on forecast models….but, like you said, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it might be useless to you.

        I understand enough to look at them, but don’t know everything I’m looking at. A few bloggers on here know far more than I do when they look over the model data.

        Gary Lezak knows a little about them….HA!

  6. MikeL December 9, 2015 at 10:39 am - Reply

    In the model trends, I’m seeing rain for the Sat-Sun storm and the Tue-Wed storm heading way north with nothing in our area. Not too promising in the near term.

    • terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 11:03 am - Reply

      I dont think the models big changes coming the next few days so there for it would think that the storm System is way off now.

  7. MMike December 9, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply


    The Sunday storm is so close…nice track on the storm. maybe we get lucky there.

    You are right, the rest of the long range outlook doesn’t have any snow in it…cooler, but no real cold air to be found.

    The LRC forecast is for an 80 percent chance of the snowflake contest ending by Christmas…the 20% it doesn’t happen might win. I sure hope not.

    • MikeL December 9, 2015 at 11:27 am - Reply

      Yeah MMike (lots of Mikes on the forum!), could be close. Maybe we could get the fat heavy wet flakes…that would be fun. Sure beats the boring mid-30s rain we seem to get so often.

  8. Alice December 9, 2015 at 11:26 am - Reply

    Thank you, but I could not see anything on the NWS site that says forecast models……?

    At any rate, looks like a lot of rain this weekend ? According to NWS Kansas City on their facebook page just now….

    “Moderate to heavy rain on its way for this weekend. Expect most areas to get 1 to 2 inches with some areas, mainly south of I-70, to see 2 to 3 inches of rain through Sunday.

    Thankfully temperatures are warm enough for all rain; otherwise this would be one baaaaaad winter storm.”

  9. Mike December 9, 2015 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Please be patient. The models are going to change on every run until Sunday morning. Enjoy the ride.

  10. Alice December 9, 2015 at 11:59 am - Reply

    How many Mikes do we have on here ??
    MMike, Mike L, and now another Mike
    Must be a Mike day for the blog

    • Rockdoc December 9, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      It’s “Mike” kind of day:)

    • Gary December 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm - Reply


      There are three different Mikes that I can see, LOL!


      • MikeL December 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm - Reply

        Don’t we also have Baseball Mike in Berryton (I think that’s where he lives…)

  11. f00dl3 December 9, 2015 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    We were in the perfect spot with the storms during the winter of 2011 as well. Problem is, it was the perfect spot for rain, not snow. We had several very strong winter storms move through that just produced rain – and some upwards of 5″ in spots. But it just never really got cold enough for us to see any real snow. And then as the pattern persisted in the warm trend, we got into a major drought in Spring 2012 that lasted until the leftovers of a hurricane gave us 4-5″ of rain in August, and then a change in the pattern set up which produced several rounds of rain through September and into October.

    • terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      Winter of 2010/11 was a strong LA Nino that winter had over 36.0 inches of snow and we was in a good spot and the winter of 2011/12 was weak LA Nino and we just had 3.9 inches of snow and most of it fell February 13th if i’m right that pattern that year was bad?

      This winter and we are in or close to the right Spot this winter.Alls We need and we will have enough cold air to get a few good snowstorms this winter we just have to be patient and it will come


      • Dale December 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm - Reply

        Calm down Terry. I am worried that MMike and you aren’t going to make this Winter alive. You need to calm down, compose yourself, proofread your comments, and allow others to make opinions without feeling the need to rebuke them.

        • terry mercer December 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm - Reply

          I’m on commenting on FoodI3 comment not on MMike comment! I am addressing what I know about those year’s.

  12. LS Mike December 9, 2015 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Lets make it four Mike’s … Lee’s summit Mike here!!

  13. Mr. Pete December 9, 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    The next ten days still look very warm to me (at least for this time of the year)

  14. Heat Miser December 9, 2015 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Well, after reading all of the comments on the blog, all have to say is as follows – rain = boring…not interested, snow = awesome, very interested. Wake me up when a real snow is approaching. After last winter’s pathetic snow output, I’ve become a bit cynical and have come to the conclusion that Old Man Winter is a pathetic wimp. ZZZZzzzzzzzz

  15. Heat Miser December 9, 2015 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    P.S. Don’t tell my brother I said I want snow. His big frozen head might get even bigger.

    • MMIke December 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm - Reply


      Your brother melted due to this warm weather….sorry.

      We will likely need sand bags this winter to control the flood waters rather than snow shovels to shovel snow.

      Can anyone guess what will happen when we do get a cold air mass in here???

      • Heat Miser December 9, 2015 at 11:03 pm - Reply

        Eh, as active as it’s going to be we’ll get some snow…as we usually do.

        • HEAT MISER December 9, 2015 at 11:04 pm - Reply

          Sniff…I hadn’t heard about my brother….

  16. Alex Pickman December 9, 2015 at 5:24 pm - Reply


    Do you think El Nino will begin to loosen it’s grip later this Winter, and if so would there be a higher chance of that cold air potentially being able to plunge south?

    I am still sticking with my forecast I made a few weeks ago of 17 – 20 inches of snow across the area. I have a feeling the majority of our snow will come in late Jan through February. There are too many storm systems to not see accumulating snow from some of them. With our location lying within the transition zone, Not only will rainfall cut into potential snow totals, but I think our area has the first legitimate chance for a major Ice Storm in quite a while. Likely not a 2002 storm, but many areas have not seen a major Ice Storm since the 2002 monster. Its something to keep an eye on, but we will likely need an arctic front to push south to give us that shallow layer of cold air.

    Either way, it will be a fun Winter to forecast, and watch unfold. Remember, Kansas City typically doesn’t see too much snow. 18.8″ average. 6″+ snowfall are not common, and we have really been spoiled the last 5 years. I am just hoping we can get the cold air in here. I refuse to jump to major conclusions of no snow this Winter.

    Have a great night!


    • Gary December 9, 2015 at 7:44 pm - Reply


      I think El Niño will continue strong through the winter. We just have to continue monitoring for any blocking way up north. I agree with you, there are just too many storms that will be functional and cycling through. This weekend storm could produce snow if it takes a good track, which it appears it will, and if it is just a bit stronger than what is being forecast. So, let’s watch this one first.


  17. Mike December 9, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    I like it. I sure hope the storm track is far enough South. Bring on some snow. Watching the Chiefs game in snow would be fun.

  18. Morgan December 9, 2015 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    Pretty clear cold signal in the extended around Christmas with snow on the 23rd-24th. A looong ways away but just trying to grasp on to anything at this point. Weekend system will be a rain event and the one on its heels looks a little south. At least it’s starting to get active around here.

    • CRW December 10, 2015 at 7:42 am - Reply

      It always seems like the cold is 10-14 days away.

  19. Alex Pickman December 10, 2015 at 1:45 am - Reply

    Based on the latest Euro output, the Snowflake Contest could end by 3 AM Monday morning. Would be a close call, though if it verified. 3 inch totals across northwest Missouri. There is hope! Lol, though we know how terrible the models have been so far this season

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