Tuesday, September 1, 2015

California – A Deluge Followed by Mega Drought?


Both NOAA and the Australian Meteorologists issued El Nino updates in the past 24 hours. The weekly numbers that were released confirm that an historic event is taking place. It now is (nearly) certain that the most significant El Nino in recorded history will be with us over the next five months. From the Aussie weather geeks:

The 2015 El Niño is now the strongest El Niño since 1997–98.

The last time we were close to the current El Nino conditions was the fall/winter of 1997/1998. National Geographic has this to say of the 1997 El Nino:

It rose out of the tropical Pacific in late 1997, bearing more energy than a million Hiroshima bombs. By the time it had run its course eight months later, the giant El Niño of 1997-98 had deranged weather patterns around the world, killed an estimated 2,100 people, and caused at least 33 billion [U.S.] dollars in property damage.

At its peak, the 1997 El Nino index reached a record high of 2.3. This extreme level was nearly reached over the past week, there is every indication that it will move higher in the coming months.

The 1997-98 results:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 7.35.29 AM

We just hit 2.2 on the weekly numbers. This number will climb over the coming months:




Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 7.39.51 AM

What does a super El Nino mean for California? Record rains are coming soon! The historical results from the 1997 Nino event:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 7.51.57 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 7.52.13 AM

National Geographic sums up the consequences of a weather system that has the power of 1m nukes:

In the U.S. mudslides and flash floods flattened communities from California to Mississippi, storms pounded the Gulf Coast, and tornadoes ripped Florida.

The effects of the 1997 Nino were felt globally:

Forest fires burned furiously in Sumatra, Borneo, and Malaysia, forcing drivers to use their headlights at noon. The haze traveled thousands of miles to the west into the ordinarily sparkling air of the Maldive Islands, limiting visibility to half a mile [0.8 kilometer] at times.

Temperatures reached 108°F [42°C] in Mongolia; Kenya’s rainfall was 40 inches [100 centimeters] above normal; central Europe suffered record flooding that killed 55 in Poland and 60 in the Czech Republic; and Madagascar was battered with monsoons and cyclones.

Okay – It’s going to rain in the Pacific West the next four months. If history is any guide, the rainfall will reach record levels. Extreme flooding is a probable outcome. As the rain/snow falls the epic drought that is now going on will abate. The rivers and reservoirs will refill by the end of February 2016. BUT THEN WHAT?

If history is any guide the extreme El Nino will be followed by a crash in ocean temperatures. By next summer it is increasing likely that the world will be facing La Nina conditions. The 1997 El Nino was followed by one of the longest periods of La Nina conditions in history.


Put this together and what do you get? It now very likely that extreme weather conditions will be with us through this winter. The West and the South will be inundated with rain. But a year from now we will be facing much different conditions. The La Nina that will be with us in 12 months will bring with it very dry conditions for California. This drought is likely to last for years.




  1. Missed you Bruce. How about an update on the Swiss Franc vs Euro. Looks like you could be about to be right about the price action.

    • I looked at the date of the article at least 3 times to be sure it was updated! :)

      Welcome back – looking forward to EUR/CHF (which I’m laughing) and finally for insurers!!

  2. It is nice to see you writing again Bruce. Like Barry, I missed your comments on currency markets too.

    Regarding the El Nino — it is possible, but I will wait to see. I say this because about a year or two ago there was all types of news stories about an 80-90% chance of a huge El Nino, record-breaking this that and the other, etc etc, all starting just months from now, REALLY! And then in those next few months, nothing happened.

    I can’t remember what those recent predictions were based on, if it was the surface temperatures being referenced now or something else, so yes, I will concede a huge El Nino could be on its way. But I will wait and see.

  3. I too am glad to see you writing again.
    Re: Extreme El Nino and what happens after,… very interesting.

  4. Hi Bruce !!! ,

    missed you.


  5. Bruce,

    I was really beginning to worry about you.

    I love your stuff.

    Glad to have you back!

  6. Good news… he’s back!

  7. BK, curious if you pulled the trigger on any of those recommendations from March. As usual, seems like most would have worked out nicely.

    Happy Labor Day Weekend comrade!

  8. Missed you as well
    Interesting as ever! Thanks!