Monday, November 30, 2009

Big surf may mean future rains?

Thanksgiving brought another round of waves to Ventura Point. The holiday weekend brought out the crowds too. Large, powerful Pacific swells create a current that sweeps through the pier, a hazard to the inexperienced surfer. According to the newspaper, lifeguards had 22 rescues over Thanksgiving, and even discussed 'closing' the point to surfing.

Winter swells are formed by storms tracking across the Pacific Ocean, blowing gales over a long 'fetch' of open ocean. Whether or not we get rain is dependent on where these storms make landfall. Often a high pressure off the west coast will turn the storms northward, with Portland/Seattle getting all the rain. This high pressure is common in 'La Nina' years.

'El Nino' is the phenomenon that historically brings us rain. Forecasters are predicting that this year may see a 'moderate' El Nino. This means we will likely see 'more consistent and larger surf than has been seen in the past 3+ years, and perhaps better than anything in the last 10+ years.'

But 'moderate' may still result in a storm track that veers north as it approaches the coast. Good weather for surfing, perhaps not so good for farming. Or, if these early swells are any indication, we may see a repeat of 1998 which recorded some of the highest rainfall of the past century.

Lots more info on El Nino at