Image: Feb 17th storm impacts the US West Coast. © NASA
El Nino versus the end of a weakening La Nina. Powerful swell and coastal storms versus what exactly? As potentially the storm of the decade batters Southern California this weekend, we put the 2016 and 2017 stats head-to-head.
Last year's historic El Nino was supposed to be the one that broke the drought and delivered some of the largest NPAC swell on record. One for two isn’t bad. The peak buoy readings, at times last winter in Hawaii, broke records and there’s no metric by which it wouldn’t be considered an epic winter for surf. For rain, less so. Long beach is already 191 per cent up on last winter's total rainfall and just north of Santa Barbara this morning has already seen more rainfall than LA saw all of last year*.
The results, aside almost halving the area affected by severe drought conditions in the last week alone, are potentially once in a decade stacks of sand everywhere the often polluted storm drain run off meets the beach.
But what use is all that shifting sand if there’s nothing to surf over it? The forecast for the weekend looks interesting to say the least, but how does the season so far compare to last year's standout?
Not only did last winter see almost twice as many days at 6ft and over, that stat held good when wind was factored in too. You probably didn’t need us to tell you that, but less there was any worry that perception had diverged from reality, here are the stats to prove you right. Last year was drier and far better for surf in Southern California than this one has been so far.
* Tracking back to the last La Nina in 2010 - 2011 rainfall totals for the season were very similar to this year so far (albeit occurring earlier in the season).