Living with La Nina

Here on Catalina our island is affected by a cyclical climate pattern known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.  Within ENSO three different climate events can occur – El Nino, a Neutral state, or La Nina. Typically these different climate events within the ENSO switch back and forth every 3 to 7 years.

For the past year Catalina has been undergoing the effects of El Nino.  Rather than having our normal cold water, El Nino has brought warmer than average ocean temperatures to the Pacific.  This warmer water has negatively impacted our kelp forest environment as well as all the animals that depend on it due to the rising ocean temperature.  They cannot withstand these warmer temperatures.  

However El Nino also brought more rain to our island.  This was extremely beneficial all throughout California since we have been in a pretty detrimental drought these past couple of years.  With this rain more plants, especially wildflowers, were brought back to life all throughout Catalina.

Recently, we have been seeing a shift from El Nino towards La Nina.  But what is La Nina and how is it going to impact us on Catalina Island?

La Nina is typically the positive phase of the ENSO because it is associated with colder than average ocean temperatures.  These colder temperatures are extremely beneficial to our Pacific ocean environment – especially for our kelp!  

However not all of La Nina will be positive impacts of our island.  La Nina will also bring drier land conditions to Southern California.  And these dry conditions will not be beneficial to Southern California or Catalina due to our current drought status.

At the end of the day El Nino means good for land, bad for ocean while La Nina means good for ocean, bad for land.


Written By: Alex Feltes