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San Diego Heat To Give Way To More El Niño-Driven Storms

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Families play at the Waterfront Park across from San Diego Bay, Feb. 8, 2016.

Aired 2/9/16 on KPBS News.

Don't let this week's warm, sunny weather fool you. El Niño storms are expected to resume — maybe by the end of this month — and continue through April.

Two people ride a jet ski on San Diego Bay, Feb. 9, 2016.

Special Feature Navigating El Niño

We’ve been warned for months that February could be an intense time for El Niño’s torrential downpours, flooding and erosion. The reality: People are flocking to beaches, pools and parks to bask in the sun.

A massive high pressure dome spanning much of the West Coast has pushed temperatures 20 degrees above the average for this time of year — 80 at the beaches and near 90 inland. Warm and dry weather is expected to stick around for at least a week.

February and March have historically been big months for El Niño-driven storms. During the last major El Niño in 1998, nearly 8 inches of rain fell at Lindbergh Field in February. In March of 1983, another big El Niño year, the airport got 7 inches of rain.

So don’t put away your rain boots just yet, said Alex Tardy, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“The baking of this week doesn’t mean El Niño is fizzling,” Tardy said. “The high pressure that we have now … is being created from a tremendous amount of storms that are sitting out in the central Pacific.”

Tardy said El Niño remains at record strength. "We just happen to be on the wrong side of the storm," he said.

“Every storm has a warm side of it, and every storm has a cold side of it,” he explained. “Storms drive high pressure, and high pressure can drive storms. It works back and forth.”

Tardy said significant storm activity is expected to return to San Diego County by the end of the month, and the rainy season will likely continue through April.

“Right now the entire Pacific is lined up with several storms,” he said. “In that window of February through April ,we can still make up for half of our season precipitation.”

San Diego has received 6.06 inches of rain at Lindbergh Field since the start of the weather year on Oct. 1 — slightly above average for this time of year. Most of it came from two El Niño-driven storm events in January.

“The storms that we saw in January were perfect examples of storms that were magnified by El Niño — the wind, the lightning, the heavy rain,” Tardy said. “And we easily could get back into that pattern.”

Credit: NOAA

This satellite image shows a series of storms brewing in the Pacific Ocean, but steering clear of the California coast where a massive system of high pressure is keeping the region warm and dry, Feb. 8, 2016.

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