El Nino not expected to be as strong next year

Trend could mean less rain for San Diego

SAN DIEGO - San Diego is known for its gorgeous beaches and beautiful weather, but there is a concern -- El Nino is not predicted to be as strong next year, and that means less rain for the area.

10News weather watcher Audrey Wilmot sent 10News pictures showing a nearly dry Lake Morena. Pat Harmer-Holtwick sent pictures showing water flowing out of Lake Morena in April 2011 compared to a dry lake last week.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography Hydrologist Mike Dettinger says heavy rains from an El Nino like that of 1998 are unlikely next winter.

"It's looking like, although we have an El Nino next year, it's probably not going to be a very large one," said Dettinger. "That's when we do get our wettest years, historically, have been our strongest El Ninos."

The latest drought map from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that about half of the lower 48 is in some form of drought.

On the map, nearly half of California is dark red, meaning the worst case and considered exceptional drought. The bright red means extreme drought, and that's half of San Diego County.

During the summer months, the county gets the monsoon over the desert southwest, as picked up on 10News Pinpoint Doppler Live. While that gives a lot of rain to the states east of California, including the Colorado River, it doesn't do much for water supply.

"You don't get much bang for the buck. For every inch of rain that falls, you get a small bit out as runoff and ground water recharge," said Dettinger.

As for the reason for the drought, "At present there are lots of possibilities. We don't know. We can't say it's climate change, we can't really say it's some kind of paleo-climate mega-drought," said Dettinger.

Dettinger said historically San Diego County only gets two to three large El Ninos in a century, and he added the county had these types of droughts in the past.

"[In] 1977 there was a drought that was at least this dry, and in 1923 sometime, early 1920s, there was another period of drought," said Dettinger.

Dettinger said the county will probably have a small to, at best, medium-sized El Nino.

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