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Thursday, October 29, 2009

El Nino-He's Back...

In July, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists announced the return of El Niño, a climate phenomenon with significant influence on global weather. Occurring, on average, once every two to seven years and typically lasting 12 months, El Niño is the warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean waters. Generally, an El Niño event will produce increased rainfall across the east-central and eastern Pacific and drier than normal conditions over northern Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The phenomenon was first recognized by South American fishermen who noticed unusually warm Pacific Ocean waters occurring near the beginning of the year. Because it typically happened around Christmas time, it was given the Spanish name El Niño meaning "the Little One."

Here in Southern California, El Niño’s creepy characteristics have typically included multiple menacing winter storms with the potential to cause severe flooding and mudslides. Additionally, the threat of major ocean pollution here in Los Angeles is very real in an El Niño year. "Even on the driest day here in LA, 10 million gallons of urban runoff flows through our rivers, creeks and lakes," states Enrique C. Zaldivar, director of the Bureau of Sanitation. "During one heavy rainstorm the quantity of stormwater runoff flow can increase to one billion gallons," continued Zaldivar. This rainwater unintentionally picks up lecherous litter, dastardly dog droppings and chilling car chemicals, creating a toxic witch's brew that flows untreated to our local bays where it threatens human and environmental health.

During a drought, rain is undoubtedly a welcome occurrence. The key is to ensure that we are treating that rain as a resource instead of a liability. Here are a few simple measures that we can adopt to minimize El Niño’s impact:

  • Organize a clean up in your own community. Remember that all storm drains lead straight to the ocean so picking up litter in your own neighborhood will create a cleaner ocean. For a listing of community clean-ups, visit LAStormwater.org/teameffort

  • Make sure all drains and gutters on your property are debris free and functioning properly. Check the storm drain at the end of your street. If it’s clogged, report it to the City’s Stormwater Hotline at (800) 974-9794.

  • Make sure your yard does not have large bare areas that could create mudflows during a storm. Autumn is a good time to put down mulch and establish native plants.

Yes, El Niño is back, but by adopting a few good housekeeping practices this winter we can work as a team to keep El Niño from becoming the monster that knocks down LA’s door.

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