Archive for June, 2016

Jun 29 2016

Ocean Acidification Affects Predator-Prey Response Acidic Waters Dull Snails’ Ability to Escape from Predatory Sea Stars


Black turban snails escape predation by sea stars by crawling out of tide pools. Experiments at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory show that the snails lose this escape response as waters become more acidic, a consequence of climate change. Photo: Brittany Jellison

Ocean Acidification Affects Predator-Prey Response | UC Davis


Quick Summary

  • Sea snails in more acidic sea water did not show escape response
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide affects ocean chemistry, may impact ocean life
  • Changes in tide pools now foreshadow future changes in the open ocean

Ocean acidification makes it harder for sea snails to escape from their sea star predators, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, suggest that by disturbing predator-prey interactions, ocean acidification could spur cascading consequences for food web systems in shoreline ecosystems.

For instance, black turban snails graze on algae. If more snails are eaten by predators, algae densities could increase.

“Ocean acidification can affect individual marine organisms along the Pacific coast, by changing the chemistry of the seawater,” said lead author Brittany Jellison, a Ph.D. student studying marine ecology at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

“But it can also alter how species interact, such as by impairing the ability of prey to avoid predators,” she said.

Sea star and snail interactions under ocean acidification

Jellison and colleagues from the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory collected ochre sea stars and black turban snails — two common species along the Pacific coastline — from tide pools on the Bodega Marine Reserve. In lab tanks, they explored interactions between the sea stars and snails under 16 different levels of seawater pH, or acidity, ranging from present levels to those expected for rocky intertidal pools by the year 2100.

The scientists found that lower pH levels, which indicate higher acidity, did not slow the snails’ movements or reduce their ability to sense the predatory sea stars. However, the more acidic waters did impair the snails’ escape response.

Tipping point

Usually, when a black turban snail senses an ochre sea star, it quickly crawls up and out of the tide pool to avoid it, as sea stars rarely leave the water to eat. But when pH levels fell to 7.1 or below, the snails failed to fully implement their escape response. Neither did the snails recover their escape response when the water’s acidity fluctuated between normal and more acidic levels.

The pH levels that spur these behavioral changes already occur in tide pools and are expected to become more frequent in coming decades.

More research is needed to understand why the snails show a degraded escape response, or if they may adapt to more acidic ocean conditions in the future.

More CO2, more ocean acidification

One-third of carbon dioxide emitted by humans enters the oceans, making seawater more acidic, the study noted.

Rocky tide pools may operate as an indicator for future ocean conditions. They experience pH levels that are predicted for the open ocean later. Models project a 0.3-0.4 drop in the global average of ocean pH by 2100.

“Dozens of West Coast species display escape responses to sea stars,” said senior author Brian Gaylord, a professor of evolution and ecology at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and Jellison’s faculty adviser. “We don’t yet know the extent to which ocean acidification could alter these additional predator-prey interactions, but there is clear potential for broader disruption of links within shoreline food webs.”

The study’s co-authors, all affiliated with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, include graduate student Aaron Ninokawa, Professor Tessa Hill of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Coastal Marine Science Institute, and professors Eric Sanford and Brian Gaylord of the Department of Evolution and Ecology.

The study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, California Sea Grant and UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Media contact(s)

Andy Fell, News and Media Relations, UC Davis, 530-752-4533,

Brian Gaylord, Bodega Marine Laboratory, 707-875-1940,

Brittany Jellison, Evolution and Ecology, 805-338-6610,

Jun 29 2016

A Conversation with Carl Walters


Carl Walters is a Professor Emeritus at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. His area of expertise includes fisheries assessment and sustainable management, and he has several years of experience advising public agencies and industrial groups on fisheries assessment and management. He has been a member of a number of NSERC grant committees since 1970, and received the AIFRB Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in 2011.

Misuse of the precautionary approach in fisheries management

We spoke with Carl Walters of the University of British Columbia about the misuse of the precautionary approach by risk-averse scientists and conservation advocates. His concern arises from the application of the precautionary approach to Western Canadian salmon fisheries, which he believes has negatively impacted Canadian salmon fishermen and resulted in “virtually, an economic collapse.”

He began by first differentiating between the precautionary principle and the precautionary approach, the former he claimed to be “a perfectly sensible statement that I think almost everyone would subscribe to about the need to avoid irreversible harm when possible…in the management of any system. There’s a different creature that has arisen in fisheries policy…called the precautionary approach to management” – this is the one that upsets him (00:35).

According to Carl, there are two problems with the precautionary approach (PA). First, it was concocted intuitively by highly risk-averse biologists and managers. “Those people are not the ones who bear the costs of having such a policy. It’s really easy for a highly risk-averse manager to recommend a very conservative policy because it’s not his income and economic future that’s at stake” (03:18). In fact, fishermen are seldom consulted about what harvest control rule they would prefer. Fishermen are often perceived to be relentless natural resource extractors that demand to keep fishing until it can be proven that the stock is collapsing. “That’s not the way fishermen behave” Carl says. “It turns out that most fishermen are risk-averse. They’re not pillagers, they’re not gamblers willing to take any risk at all in order to just keep fishing. They are concerned about the future and they are generally willing to follow some kind of risk-averse harvesting policy” (04:40). “Fishing is a risky business, and fishermen in general are far less risk averse than the people who end up in government and academic jobs.  But that does not mean fishermen are willing to take high risks with the productive future of the stocks that support them.”

So if both fishermen and managers are risk-averse, what’s the problem? The issue is that the interests of only one of these stakeholders is truly accounted for when designing precautionary harvest policies. In Canadian fisheries, there has been “a deliberate exclusion of fishermen in the development of these critical harvest control rules. They have no say in it. The decision rule should be based, at least to some degree, on patterns of risk-aversion that fishermen have since it’s the fishermen who bear the burden of the regulation” (09:48).

Carl recommends that we do away with the precautionary approach, and instead focus on developing and implementing ‘utility maximizing policies’ (10:35), which includes identifying harvest control rules that maximize expected utility for a risk-averse community of fishermen (17:20). Carl believes the extreme rules proposed by biologists are not the answer. “In fact, the optimal harvest control rules actually involve continuing to fish down to stock sizes that would terrify many biologists. When you shut things down you’re putting people out of business and for many of them that’s an irreversible loss of their livelihood” (06:30).

There are balanced policies that deal more sensibly with risk-aversion, represent the interests of fishermen rather than the interests of really risk-averse biologists, and are ecologically just as sustainable as more extreme policies. “Ultimately, fisheries management is about the fishermen – it’s not about a government agency staff feeling comfortable, it’s about trying to maintain the livelihoods of fishermen” (18:07).

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Jun 23 2016

US and Mexico to define criteria for catching sardines

Monterrey sardine, Sardinops sagax. (Photo: NOAA)

A study on populations of sardines (Sardinops sagax) that inhabit the waters of Baja California could be crucial to define the guidelines for capture, care and sustainability of the species to be agreed by the governments of Mexico and the United States.

Interviewed by the News Agency Conacyt, study author Norma Laura Lucio Martinez, a researcher at the Coastal Research and Development Centre (CIDECO), said that for the evaluation samples were taken during 2012, 2013 and 2014, to carry out comparisons.

The researcher explained that there is concern by the US government to establish fishing quotas for catching sardines. This is because in Mexico it is performed under the size criteria, and the study shows the sector that Baja California takes advantage of a shared reserve that makes it impossible to set quotas.

To determine that the sardine populations living in Baja California are mixed with various groups that migrate along the California current, an otolith analysis was performed.

The otoliths are bones found in the front part of the sardine, which makes it possible to see what part of the California current the sardine comes from through rings that get marked similarly to those on the trunks of the trees.

The researcher explained that the distribution of the Monterrey sardine ranges from Canada to Baja California Sur, and there are three main populations that migrate for food, except for the southern one.

“With these three populations that are identified, rings are being deposited and finally if they are caught off Ensenada and the otoliths are identified by microscope, by measuring the proportions it is possible to know their age and where this species was born. This is how the study was conducted, by measuring the otoliths, sizes and also by making comparisons with weight and size,” she explained.

With regard to capture policies, Lucio Martinez said that through the Tri-National Sardine Forum, researchers, producers and government officials discuss capture guidelines as well as those for the care and sustainability of the species.

“In the United States it has been said that quotas must be established, which is how they perform their capture; in Mexico it is not managed through catch volumes but by size, being the minimum catch size 15 centimetres because it is said to be the size in which at least the specimen has already spawned once,” she explained.

Through the same forum, the results of the research have been provided. They state the sardine population is migrating along the entire California Current, which confers the study a direct link with the productive sector.

“As the population can not be controlled so that it does not move, the population belongs to both countries, then it is a shared resource, we identify that it could have been in any of the two countries where the species was born,” concluded the researcher.

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Jun 23 2016

Characters of San Pedro Fish Market star in ‘Kings of Fish’ web reality series

San Pedro Fish Market's Tommy Amalfitano, one of the original founders, and nephew Michael Ungaro are two of the family members which run the busy seaside restaurant Saturday, June 18, 2016, San Pedro, CA. The restaurant, started in 1957, has grown to one of the busiest in the country Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer
San Pedro Fish Market’s Tommy Amalfitano, one of the original founders, and nephew Michael Ungaro are two of the family members which run the busy seaside restaurant Saturday, June 18, 2016, San Pedro, CA. The restaurant, started in 1957, has grown to one of the busiest in the country Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer


You can’t get more Pedro than the Fish Market.

As the family yarn goes, it all started with a couple of Italian immigrants selling fish, what else, out of ice chests from a tiny shop at Ninth and Meyler streets in the 1950s.

Today, the sprawling market and restaurant business run by four generations of the Ungaro and Amalfitano families packs in thousands who travel for miles on weekends to experience the famous shrimp tray with a glass — or two — of cold beer, a round of karaoke and majestic views of the passing ship traffic along the water’s edge in Ports O’ Call Village.

Chaotic, festive and brimming the old- and new-world Pedro character (and characters), the San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant — Tommy Amalfitano, “Tommy Sr.,” was just a teenager when he began running his Uncle Mackey Ungaro’s small retail fish market named Vista Seafood in the 1950s and Tommy is still the boss — is making a stab at prime time celebrity as it debuts its own reality web series, “Kings of Fish,” on Friday.

“When you get us all together, it could be fun, it could be crazy or it could be a little psychotic” is how Michael Ungaro, a USC graduate and now a principal in the family-owned business, puts it in the one-minute trailer that’s already a much-shared hit. “You really don’t know what to expect.”

The goal, he said, is bigger than promoting the restaurant. The aim, he said, is to highlight the San Pedro community, founded by European immigrants who migrated here to fish. The restaurant, as it prepares for the July Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival, serves as a microcosm of that larger narrative.

“We have this great story with a lot of characters,” said Ungaro, Tommy’s nephew.

It may all look very normal — just Pedro being Pedro — to the locals, he said. But outsiders seem drawn to the colorful, ethnic-rich, sometimes raw glimpse into the behind-the-scenes workings of a traditional seafood business at one of the busiest seaports in the world.

So they linked up with streaming media producer Scott Holmes and executive directors Tim Regan Wasmundt and Devin McGovern — whose resumes include shows such as “Iron Chef America” and “Bar Rescue” — in the pioneer movement that is bringing entertainment into homes directly through digital media.

The result, producers said, is “network-quality programing that engages audiences.”

The idea behind the short “webisodes” is to cut out the network middleman and garner sponsors directly. It’s only been done by large name brands such as Nike so far, Holmes said, making the fish market rollout something of an experiment to see how it might work for smaller businesses.

New webisodes will appear each Friday, beginning this week, and remain online for viewing anytime. Set to run are four five-minute-long episodes that will air on If those are successful, they’ll produce more.

The first episodes will largely be character-building narratives highlighting the family members who run the growing business, Holmes said.

It’s not the first time the restaurant has been in the spotlight.

“People have flown in from Texas who saw us on the Travel Channel,” Ungaro said. “We’ve had people here from Seattle who saw us on the Food Network.”

And the market’s YouTube channel carries several videos created over the past few years.

Launching a San Pedro Fish Market frozen food for retail consumers has further expanded the market’s celebrity. Its “World Famous Shrimp Tray” line now is found in more than 1,000 grocery stores across four states, including Hawaii. Talks are ongoing to put the brand in Costco and Sprouts.

Holmes said the family needed very little coaching in front of the camera.

“It was fun making it,” he said. “They’re such naturals. We always give some direction, but we didn’t have to give much. This is really who they are.”

Since its opening in 1956 (it was at Norm’s Landing, just north of where it is now, before opening in Ports O’ Call in 1962), the restaurant has tripled its indoor and vast patio seating capacity to nearly 3,000, serving more than 1.1 million customers each year. The business has been promised a new spot in the San Pedro Public Market, the development that will remake Ports O’ Call, with some of its new dining space to be constructed over the water and the promenade. The current facility will remain open until the new restaurant is built and ready for occupancy.

Its food, atmosphere and immigrant family roots make it a true San Pedro original and the market was wooed three years ago, Ungaro said, for a television reality show. The family backed off when it became clear they would have to forfeit some creative control — on top of providing a percentage of their restaurant sales to the film company.

Holmes said a teaser clip got nearly 200,000 views in less than a week’s time. He expects the Fish Market webisodes to be a hit.

“From a quality perspective, it’s as good as a network show,” he said. “From a character perspective, that family, you’ve gotta love them. They’re all characters.”

The San Pedro Fish Market makes for a popular weekend destination, drawing thousands of customers a day. The restaurant, started in 1957, has grown to one of the busiest in the country. Saturday, June 18, 2016. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)San Pedro Fish Market’s Tommy Amalfitano, left, one of the original founders, and nephew Michael Ungaro are two of the family members who run the busy San Pedro seaside restaurant, which was started in 1957 and has grown into one of the busiest in the country. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer


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Jun 17 2016

Peru Sets Summer Anchovy Fishing Quota at 1.8 Million Metric Tons

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  – June 17, 2016

Peru’s Ministry of Production announced a July 1 start date to commercial anchovy fishing under a 1.8 million metric ton quota.

The quota was based on a final stock assessment of the fishery published by IMARPE that found the biomass at 7.28 million metric tons as of June 15. That figure was roughly 65 percent higher from the biomass at the beginning of May and 14 percent above the historical average between 1994 and 2015.

The fishing season will official get underway on July 1 and will run until the quota is fished or until the stock enters its reproductive cycle sometime in the winter months.

However, a week of exploratory fishing was approved to start this Saturday, June 18, which will run through Saturday, June 25.

“The results found by IMARPE are excellent news. It is evident that the 2015-2016 El Niño event has already ended and that its effects on the stock of anchoveta have been less harmful than the Child 1997-1998 “, said Minister of Production, Piero Ghezzi.

Water conditions for the anchovy stock have substantially improved since there was a 200% increase in cold water areas while salinity levels were down from the first measurement.

“Once again it has been demonstrated that the current changing conditions of the Peruvian sea require an adaptive and flexible policy, which means making decisions based on more than one measurement and a much thinner sea conditions observation. That’s what we’ve done responsibly,” the minister added.

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Jun 17 2016

La Jolla Sea Lion Situation Now A ‘Crisis’

Visitors in La Jolla Cove stand on the bluffs along the ocean, Nov. 19, 2015.

Photo by Katie Schoolov – Visitors in La Jolla Cove stand on the bluffs along the ocean, Nov. 19, 2015.


The ongoing poop problem in La Jolla appears to be getting worse.

How much worse?

Residents are now calling it a crisis.

“It’s not just the smell of the sea lions on the rocky bluffs,” said Steve Haskins, the former president of the La Jolla Town Council. “Now it’s actually the sea lions taking over the stairways, sometimes they don’t let people go to the beach or leave the beach because you have very large male sea lions on the stairways, which can be very aggressive.”

Pollution from sea lion and bird droppings in the ocean also led to the cancellation of the annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim race this year, said Haskins.

La Jolla Cove was under a health advisory warning for about two weeks in May due to high levels of pollution. Historically, advisories average two days in the cove, according to county staff.

Over the years, a number of creative ideas to address the stench have been proposed. In 2013 the city began the application of a bioactive product on the bluffs. Early this year, a group of La Jolla residents and business owners suggested setting up rotating plastic cylinders that will roll the marine mammals off the rocks as they try to jump out of the water.

Haskins said no action on that plan was taken.

Now he is suggesting the city spray water on the sea lions, which the animals don’t like, to remove them off the beach. Haskins said this solution would require no approval from authorities, and the city could do it immediately.

The city commissioned a report on the sea lions that was supposed to come out in May, according to Haskins, but it hasn’t yet been published.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Jun 13 2016

Univ. of Washington Rejects Greenpeace Smear of Prof. Ray Hilborn, Says He Fully Discloses Funding

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2016

Seafood News

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  By John Sackton – June 13, 2016

When Greenpeace is caught denying scientific consensus, their reaction is to try and claim that the scientists are not independent, but simply mouthpieces for the industry Greenpeace is targeting.

This has been an effective tactic in fighting global warming, as there is evidence of a concerted campaign by the fossil fuel industry to fund the 1% of scientists who take a contrary view against the well-established scientific consensus on causes of global warming.

Greenpeace, after losing badly a public campaign claiming trawling was hugely impacting corals in the major Canyons of the Bering Sea, [Short answer: not coral habitat, and bottom trawling already prohibited]  tried to use that same tactic against renowned fishery scientist Ray Hilborn, who has led the building of a global scientific consensus about how to measure overfishing, and determine when it is or is not occurring.

They accused Dr. Hilborn of not following accepted professional guidelines regarding disclosures of research funding sources. Instead, they called him an “overfishing denier”, clearly trying to make the connection with climate change.

Just like with the Bering Sea Canyons, investigation showed the facts were not what Greenpeace claimed.

The University of Washington, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Science Magazine have all reviewed the charges Greenpeace made against Dr. Hilborn of non-disclosure and found there were no violations of University or Journal procedures.

For example, Dr. Mary Lindstrom, Vice-President for Research, University of Washington, said “In response to the inquiry regarding Dr. Ray Hilborn’s research, disclosure, and outside activities we have reviewed his funding types and sources, publication history and disclosures, as well as approvals for outside consulting against relevant University policies.”

“For the activities described in Greenpeace’s letter to Dr. Inder M. Verma, Editor‐in‐Chief of PNAS, dated May 11, 2016, we have not identified any actions or lack thereof, engaged in by Dr. Hilborn which violate University policies or procedures governing conflicts of interest or outside consulting.”

The University of Washington has received millions of dollars in support from fishing groups for several research programs Dr. Hilborn leads, and where that support has led to scientific papers the support is acknowledged. This funding has been used to help maintain sustainable fisheries, help protect fish habitat and to train students. The University of Washington’s Salmon program pioneered many of the key techniques used for Alaska salmon forecasts, and today contributes to the management of Bristol Bay.   Industry co-funding of research contributes to better fisheries management.

The reason the reality of industry support for fisheries in the US is so different than what Greenpeace claims is that the US Industry has fully embraced the concept that fisheries decisions have to be based on the best available science. Greenpeace cannot embrace that concept because much of its funding is based on claiming impending disasters that only they can stop.  If the science provides a different or more nuanced answer, their funding dries up.

Hilborn says “I have no personal financial arrangements with recreational or commercial fishing groups, but I have certainly done consulting projects for them in the past, and when that support led to scientific papers the support was acknowledged. I have also done consulting and research for groups and industries which are occasionally in conflict with fishing interests, including the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, WWF, Environmental Defense, the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, Exxon and agricultural interests. Where that work led to scientific publications the support was acknowledged.”

“Greenpeace wants to tar me with the same brush as climate change deniers. They clearly have not read my publications. The book “Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know” published by Oxford University Press in 2012 begins in the preface ‘So what’s the story? Is overfishing killing off ocean ecosystems or are fisheries being sustainably managed? It all depends on where you look.’

“Overfishing is a major threat to marine ecosystems in some places but in other places stocks are increasing, not declining and overfishing is being reduced or almost eliminated. I tell a complex story of success and failure, whereas Greenpeace simply cannot accept that overfishing is not universal. I seek to identify what has worked to reduce overfishing – Greenpeace seeks to raise funds by denying that many fisheries are improving. Indeed Greenpeace should acknowledge that they have had a role in reducing overfishing in some places – take credit rather than deny it is happening,” he says.

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Jun 13 2016

Why the ocean water along the Central Coast turned cold

As most beachgoers will tell you, the seawater temperatures along the Central Coast have turned downright cold.

In fact, the harbor seals and sea lions seem to want to spend more time on the rocks and beaches. My children, Chloe and Sean, are using thicker wetsuits.

So why is the seawater so cold?

Strong to gale-force northwesterly winds have produced greater amounts of upwelling along the coastline.

As the northwesterly winds blow parallel to our coastline, the friction of the wind causes ocean surface water to move. Because of the Coriolis effect, the surface water flows to the right, or offshore.

This, in turn, causes upwelling along the coast as cold, clear and nutrient-rich water rises to the surface along the immediate shoreline.

Farther away, another factor may help to keep seawater temperatures at normal or below normal: It’s called El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The latest surface seawater temperature (SST) data from the central equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean called Niño 3.4 indicates this past “Godzilla” El Niño has died. Region 3.4 is the standard for classifying El Niño (warmer-than-normal SST) and La Niña (cooler-than-normal SST) events. The fortunetelling SST cycles in Niño 3.4 are categorized by the amount they deviate from the average SST. In other words, an anomaly.

A weak El Niño is classified as an SST anomaly between 0.5 and 0.9 degrees Celsius, a moderate El Niño is an anomaly of 1.0 to 1.4 degrees Celsius and a strong El Niño ranges from 1.5 to 1.9 degrees Celsius. A very strong El Niño anomaly is anything above 2.0 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a very rare event indeed.

Last winter’s temperatures reached a little over 3 degrees Celsius, one of the strongest on record.

William Patzert, a respected climatologist with Caltech’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said, “Unfortunately, its effects weren’t as great as the 1997-98 El Niño. That cycle produced huge amounts of rain and snow. This year’s El Niño was no Godzilla, more of a gecko as far as impacts were concerned along the Central Coast.”

For reasons we really don’t understand, pressure areas change places at irregular intervals over the equatorial Pacific. This is part of the broader El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern.

During a La Niña phase, high pressure builds in the eastern equatorial Pacific, while low pressure develops to the west, producing a stronger equatorial pressure gradient. Almost like a car rolling downhill, the easterly trade winds strengthen, causing upwelling off the coastlines of Peru and Ecuador and lowering sea surface temperatures throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The latest model runs from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Service indicate that we will go into a La Niña cycle by July and remain in this cycle through early 2017.

The good news is that upwelling brings nutrients to the surface waters off the coast, allowing fish populations living in these waters to thrive. The bad news is this condition often shifts the storm track farther north into the Pacific Northwest, leaving the Central Coast high and dry with below-average rainfall.

However, there have been periods of heavy rain during neutral conditions (“El Nothing”) and La Niña cycles. An atmospheric river (Pineapple Express) could develop over the Central Coast during winter and produce copious amounts of rain along the Central Coast, regardless of ENSO.

Otherwise, chances are, we will probably see another year of below-average rainfall. Only time will tell the story.

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