El Nino to California: Game On

Just as predicted, this year's record El Nino is drenching the southwest.

Just about as predicted, the effects of this winter's bonkers El Nino event began hitting California on Dec. 31, delivering a succession of three powerful, drenching storms right into the guts of drought-parched Southern California. Some areas of Los Angeles saw as much as six inches of rain in a 72 hour period and much more is on the way.

As of the NOAA's most recent report on Jan. 4, a sharp bolt of overwarm water extends from the northwestern reaches of South America out along the equator. It kind of looks like Ecuador is breathing fire out across the Pacific.

Image: NOAA

The animation below comes courtesy of imagery collected via the NOAA's GOES-West satellite from Jan. 5 to 7.

Behold, the Los Angeles River, usually a sad trickle:

A crucial reminder that all of this water is desperately needed in Southern California and the southwest US in general. The region has been wallowing in drought conditions for 15 years. It will take a lot more than this to get things right: the state's reservoirs are essentially starting from zero and even with the past week's healthy dumping of mountain snow, California's snowpack is still at just 97 percent of normal.

California also depends on diversions of water from the Colorado River, which itself depends on snowpack high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Utah. Colorado flows have so far this year been better than the river's recent new normal of "impossibly shitty," but nothing like what is needed to refill Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Fortunately, El Nino is just getting started and is expected to persist through the winter and spring, finally dying down by summer.