Could El Niño help bust the California drought?

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California Water Use Fell 13.5 Percent in April Amid Drought

By ACCUWEATHER

With El Niño being a major player in the demise of the Texas drought, the question is will the same phenomenon help funnel heavy rain into drought-stricken California.

El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures climb above average across the central and eastern Pacific, centered around the equator.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll, "The warmer sea surface water strengthens the storm track over the Pacific Ocean and across the southern United States, especially during the winter, spring and autumn months of the year."

The storm track during the summer is generally weak and disrupted by high pressure off the Pacific
coast of North America.

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Could El Niño help bust the California drought?
FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, file photo, houseboats float in the drought-lowered waters of Oroville Lake near Oroville, Calif. On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, the Department of Water Resources reported that Lake Oroville, the State Water Project's principal reservoir, is dipping toward its record low set in 1977. Public water agencies that serve millions of residents in drought-weary California might only receive 10 percent of expected supplies in 2016 _ half of the amount that flowed to them this year through the stateâs massive system of reservoirs and canals, state officials say. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
In this Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 photo, Bart Fisher, farmer and president of the Palo Verde Irrigation District, looks at the Colorado River while pausing for photos in Blythe, Calif. The third-generation farmer who was born in Blythe, left 29 percent of his farmland fallow this year. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the nationâs largest distributor of treated drinking water, became the largest landowner in the region including Blythe for good reason: The alfalfa-growing area sits at the top of the legal pecking order to Colorado River water, a lifeline for seven Western states and northern Mexico.( AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
In this photo taken Tuesday Oct. 27, 2015, a shoe sits on the dry lake bed at Folsom Lake, in Folsom, Calif. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to release statewide water conservation figures for October at a water board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 1. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SONOMA, CA - JULY 22: (L-R) Keith Pringle with Friedman's Home Improvemnt, Danielle Baker and Brian Lee with the Sonoma County Water Agency fill buckets with water conservation tools and literature during a 'Drought Drive Up' event on July 22, 2015 in Sonoma, California. As Californians endure a fourth straight year of severe drought, the Sonoma County Water Agency held a 'Drought Drive Up' event where they handed out water conservation literature and water saving tools like low flow showerheads and aerators. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In this photo taken Tuesday, July 21, 2015, water flows down a diversion canal operated by the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, that is drawn out of a channel leading to to the William O. Banks pumping plant, near Byron, Calif. The California State Water Resources Control Board is proposing a fine of $1.5 million against the irrigation district for allegedly diverting water in June, after it was warned that there was not enough water. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SAN ANSELMO, CA - JULY 14: A brown lawn is seen in front of a home on July 14, 2015 in San Anselmo, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to protect residents from local governments that impose fines for residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to conserve water. California is in the midst of its fourth year of severe drought. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
KENTFIELD, CA - JULY 14: A sign is posted in the middle of brown lawn on July 14, 2015 in Kentfield, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to protect residents from local governments that impose fines for residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to conserve water. California is in the midst of its fourth year of severe drought. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 14: A brown lawn is seen in front of a home on July 14, 2015 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to protect residents from local governments that impose fines for residents who let their lawns turn brown in an effort to conserve water. California is in the midst of its fourth year of severe drought. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Cars drives by a sign encouraging residents to save water on Thursday, July 2, 2015 in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. The 154,000-customer water district in wealthy southern Orange County had achieved only a 3 percent water reduction rate in the previous 11 months, but that number jumped to 18 percent in May. State water officials cited the Santa Margarita Water District on Wednesday as it announced a record statewide water savings of 29 percent overall in the drought-stricken state, which is experiencing its driest period in recorded history. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Homes back up against dry brown hills Thursday, July 2, 2015 in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. The 154,000-customer water district in wealthy southern Orange County had achieved only a 3 percent water reduction rate in the previous 11 months, but that number jumped to 18 percent in May. State water officials cited the Santa Margarita Water District on Wednesday as it announced a record statewide water savings of 29 percent overall in the drought-stricken state, which is experiencing its driest period in recorded history. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Rich Kissee, Operations Manager for the Santa Margarita Water District stands on the edge of a water runoff reservoir, Thursday, July 2, 2015 in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. The 154,000-customer water district in wealthy southern Orange County had achieved only a 3 percent water reduction rate in the previous 11 months, but that number jumped to 18 percent in May. State water officials cited the Santa Margarita Water District on Wednesday as it announced a record statewide water savings of 29 percent overall in the drought-stricken state, which is experiencing its driest period in recorded history. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Rich Kissee, Operations Manager for the Santa Margarita Water District stands on the edge of a water runoff collection reservoir, Thursday, July 2, 2015 in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. The 154,000-customer water district in wealthy southern Orange County had achieved only a 3 percent water reduction rate in the previous 11 months, but that number jumped to 18 percent in May. State water officials cited the Santa Margarita Water District on Wednesday as it announced a record statewide water savings of 29 percent overall in the drought-stricken state, which is experiencing its driest period in recorded history. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
FILE- In this April 16, 2015, file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown talks with reporters after a meeting about the drought at his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif. California's drought-stricken cities set a record for water conservation, reducing usage 29 percent in May, according to data released by a state agency Wednesday, July 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
With AFP Story by Veronique DUPONT: US-drought-poverty-agriculture-water-environment Dead plum trees that have been removed from the ground due to the lack of water for irrigation at the drought affected town of Monson, California on June 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
With AFP Story by Veronique DUPONT: US-drought-poverty-agriculture-water-environment A dead tomato bush is seen in the vegetable garden of local resident Maria Jimenez at the drought affected town of Monson, California on June 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
This Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows mudflow merging into the McCloud River in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, near McCloud, Calif. The largest mudslide on Northern California's Mt. Shasta in two decades may be related to California's prolonged drought, experts said Sunday. The mudslide began Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 after a glacier holding pockets of water either shifted or melted, releasing water down the southeastern side of Mt. Shasta, said Andrea Capps, a spokeswoman for Shasta-Trinity National Forest. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service)
CORRECTS LOCATION TO OAKLEY-A load of rocks are placed during the construction of a temporary emergency barrier to block salt water intrusion into the West False River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Oakley, Calif., Friday, May 29, 2015. About 150,000 tons of been used in the construction of the nearly 750-foot-wide barrier, built between Jersey and Bradford Islands by the California Department of Water Resources. The project, which is nearing completion nearly two weeks ahead of schedule, will be removed in mid-November. As less fresh water flows down the rivers, due to California's historic drought, salt salt water moves farther up the delta which effects the water supply to communities and irrigation water for farmers.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this May 1, 2014 photo, irrigation water runs along the dried-up ditch between the rice farms to provide water for the rice fields in Richvale, Calif. A federal agency said Friday it will not release water for most Central Valley farms this year, forcing farmers to continue to scramble for other sources or leave fields unplanted. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
FILE - In this Feb. 4 2014 file photo, a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. State officials reported Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, that residents in drought-stricken California met Gov. Jerry Brown's call to slash water use by 20 percent for the first time in December, when water use fell by 22 percent compared to the same month in 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE -- In this March 11, 2014 file photo Steve Upton, right, demonstrates how to use the water timer he installed on the water spigot at the home of Larry Barber, left, in Sacramento, Calif. Upton, an inspector for the water conservation unit of the Sacramento Utilities Department, follows up on tips concerning city residents wasting water in one of California's driest years on record. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,file)
Workers replace the plaster in a swimming pool in Santa Ana, Calif. on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. California swimming pool companies just regaining their financial footing after the recession are now facing a new challenge: a devastating drought that has put the state’s ubiquitous backyard pools under the microscope. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Workers replace the plaster in a swimming pool in Santa Ana, Calif. on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. California swimming pool companies just regaining their financial footing after the recession are now facing a new challenge: a devastating drought that has put the state’s ubiquitous backyard pools under the microscope. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Workers replace the plaster in a swimming pool in Santa Ana, Calif. on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. California swimming pool companies just regaining their financial footing after the recession are now facing a new challenge: a devastating drought that has put the state’s ubiquitous backyard pools under the microscope. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
This Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a mud flow along Mud Creek Canyon in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The largest mudslide on Northern California's Mt. Shasta in two decades may be related to California's prolonged drought, experts said Sunday. The mudslide began Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 after a glacier holding pockets of water either shifted or melted, releasing water down the southeastern side of Mt. Shasta, said Andrea Capps, a spokeswoman for Shasta-Trinity National Forest. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service)
A sign alerts visitors to water conservation efforts at the state Capitol, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. State water regulators are considering fines up to $500 for excessive water use for things like irrigating lawns and car washing due to the state's severe drought. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A sprinkler system sprays water onto a parked car along the curb in Glendale, Calif., Wednesday, July 9, 2014. For the first time since the drought of the 1970s, state officials are looking to drive water conservation through mandatory restrictions, with fines of up to $500 for violators. A proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board, to be considered Tuesday, July 15, 2014 in Sacramento, would bar residents from spraying down sidewalks, driveways and patios, watering lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff, washing cars without a shut-off nozzle, and using potable water in fountains. (AP Photo/Matt Hamilton)
El Dorado County Sheriff's deputy Steve Brown walks across the boat ramp that is normally covered with water at Brown's Ravine Marina at Folsom Lake, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Folsom, Calif. Water levels at the lake, which is one of the primary sources for water storage in the region, have reached near historic lows this year causing boaters to remove their boats from the marina. State water regulators are considering maximum $500-a-day fines for water wasters after acknowledging that voluntary steps to reduce consumption amid the states historic drought haven't worked. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Kadie Dutton walks up the boat ramp, that is normally covered with water, with her daughters, Ava, 3, left, and Ele, 8 months, after spending the day at Folsom Lake, Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Folsom, Calif. Water levels at the lake, which is one of the primary sources for water storage in the region, have reached near historic lows this year. State water regulators are considering maximum $500-a-day fines for water wasters after acknowledging that voluntary steps to reduce consumption amid the states historic drought haven't worked. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A hose and nozzle sits in an irrigated front yard Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in San Diego. Wasting water outdoors amid the state's drought will begin hitting Californians in the wallet under new restrictions being proposed by state regulators, with fines of up to $500 a day for overwatering front lawns or washing a car without a nozzle on the hose. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A woman works among drought-tolerant plants in her front yard Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in San Diego. Wasting water outdoors amid the state's drought will begin hitting Californians in the wallet under new restrictions being proposed by state regulators, with fines of up to $500 a day for overwatering front lawns or washing a car without a nozzle on the hose. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
The fountain at the Capitol Park Rose Garden sits empty, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. State water regulators are considering fines up to $500 to enforce emergency restrictions on urban water use like irrigating lawns and car washing due to the state's severe drought, because conservation efforts so far aren't producing enough results. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Groundskeeper Sanjay Ram, right,of the Department of General Services, waters plants lining the sidewalk around the state Capitol Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif. State water regulators are considering fines up to $500 for excessive water use for things like irrigating lawns and car washing due to the state's severe drought. State officials say conservation efforts so far aren't producing enough results. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
This Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a mud flow along Mud Creek Canyon in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The largest mudslide on Northern California's Mt. Shasta in two decades may be related to California's prolonged drought, experts said Sunday. The mudslide began Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 after a glacier holding pockets of water either shifted or melted, releasing water down the southeastern side of Mt. Shasta, said Andrea Capps, a spokeswoman for Shasta-Trinity National Forest. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service)
In this photo taken Sept. 17, 2014, house boats are docked in the low water at Lake Shasta's Bay Bridge resort near Redding, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are Brown and lawmakers are hoping California's drought will persuades voters to approve Proposition 1, the bond measure on the November ballot that will provide $7.5 billion dollars for new water projects and conservation measures.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)
FILE - In this Monday, May 18, 2015 file photo, Gino Celli inspects wheat nearing harvest on his farm near Stockton, Calif. Moving to meet voluntary water conservation targets, dozens of farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta submitted plans Monday, June 1 to the state saying they intend to plant less thirsty crops and leave some fields unplanted amid the relentless California drought, officials said. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)
Children play on the exposed sandy bottom of Mirror Lake that is normally underwater and used by visitors to photograph reflections of the Half Dome rock monolith at Yosemite National Park in California on June 4, 2015. At first glance the spectacular beauty of the park with its soaring cliffs and picture-postcard valley floor remains unblemished, still enchanting the millions of tourists who flock the landmark every year. But on closer inspection, the drought's effects are clearly visible. AFP PHOTO/MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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How stormy the pattern becomes moving forward into the winter is generally associated with the strength of El Niño or how warm the tropical Pacific waters become.

This spring, the pattern has contributed to rounds of heavy rain in Texas to the point of not only breaking the drought, but also causing destructive and deadly flooding.

Earlier in May, the pattern also helped to funnel some moisture into California, but with exponentially much less impact when compared to Texas and the southern Plains.

Some episodes of rain can occur in California over the summer, but these would not have major and long-lasting impact on the drought. A few such episodes can occur during the first 10 days or so of June.

If El Niño is going to have significant impact on California, it will likely be during the winter.

El Niño began during the late winter and early spring of 2015 but was rather weak. On average, an El Niño lasts nine to 12 months.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Mark Paquette, "There is uncertainty about how long El Niño will last and when it will peak."

There is some indication that the current El Niño pattern will strengthen and will peak sometime in the autumn of 2015.

"If this is the case, then California has a good chance at being pretty wet for the upcoming winter," Paquette said. "Conversely, if El Niño peaks at moderate level or weakens by early fall, it becomes more dicey in terms of storms and rainfall for California."

The El Niño of the winter of 1997-98 was one of the strongest on record and delivered storm after storm to California. The storms unloaded 20-30 inches of rain in California with yards of snow in the Sierra Nevada.

Another variable is where the storm track takes aim. Sometimes the parade of storms focuses along the northern part of the Pacific coast.

Drought conditions have been building in Washington and Oregon in recent months. A trend which is expected to worsen through the summer and could lead to a rough wildfire season.



Because of the uncertainty of the strength of El Niño, as well as the rainy season storm track months from now, people should not count on a wet winter to wipe out drought in California or building drought in Oregon and Washington. Keep checking back with AccuWeather.com for updates on the drought status and any episodes of beneficial rain.

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