El Nino – Can I Keep My Lawn?

We’ve had some much needed rain this winter, but are we in the clear?

This El Nino winter has seemed like exactly what we have needed. After 5 long years of drought, finally a nice wet winter. But before you get out your hose to water your lawn, read on because we’re not in the clear yet. Scientists say that the weather patterns of California are changing, and maybe for good.

The short term effects of El Nino have been beneficial. For instance, the snowpack in Sierra Nevada is up to an average of 113% of normal for this time of year, compared to only 6% of normal at the end of last year. Reservoirs have been increasing slightly, but not enough to call off the drought as many of them are still well below their historical average. Since California has been in a drought since 2011, we are in a rain deficit of one entire year. This means that it would take 2 years of El Nino like rain to make up for the loss. Click Here to see current information on all of the water reservoirs in the state.

To make matters worse, scientists predict that in the coming months El Nino will weaken and that there will be a La Nina in the fall.

What does all of this mean?

The Weather patterns referred to as El Nino occur when the ocean temperatures in the pacific begin to warm up. Due to changes in pressure this causes wetter conditions in the south US and drier conditions in the pacific northwest. During La Nina, ocean temperatures cool. This creates the opposite effect of El Nino, and the southern tier can generally expect warmer, drier conditions while the pacific northwest has wetter conditions.

Click Here for much more information about El Nino.

Furthermore, our water crisis is compounded by possible permanent changes in weather patterns. A study done by the National Center for Atmospheric Research has shown that subtle changes in atmospheric pressure are leading to changing weather patterns. Higher pressure in the southwest is causing less rain fall than usual. This means that a drier climate may be “the new normal” for California.

“A normal year in the Southwest is now drier than it once was,” said Andreas Prein, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) who led the study. “If you have a drought nowadays, it will be more severe because our base state is drier.”

Read the full article and more about the study here.

So what now?

Last year, when Governor Jerry Brown made a call to action for water restrictions and replacing lawns with drought-tolerant plants, many people made plans to make changes. With the precipitation we’ve gotten this winter, it’s easy to feel like we’re in the clear and that we can forget about all of our plans to conserve water. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

With global warming and changing weather patterns, it is likely that California will never be back to how it was. Although this news can be a bit difficult to swallow, we must act now to change our habits to match our changing climate.

The standard lawn is no longer feasible in California. But here’s the good news – water-wise landscapes are. Colorful and vibrant gardens filled with the flowery scents of nature are soon to be the new Califonia yard.

For information on how you can remove your lawn and replace it with drought-tolerant plants to save water, call our office at 805-400-4140. Our mission is to remove lawns and we are here to keep that process simple, easy, and cost effective so that us Californians can work together for a sustainable future.