When fishermen catch marlin in Northern California El Nino is a sure thing

7-13-15

By Michael Raffety

A weird thing happened to me on the way into the Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County’s Monday meeting June 15. I put in the coins for a Sacramento Bee. After I had let the newsstand door shut I realized I had pulled out a San Francisco Chronicle.

The Chronicle isn’t what is used to be since Herb Caen and Art Hoppe died. No more Count Marco. No Stephanie Salter or John Carroll (not the L.A. Times editor). No question man (really a woman).

So I had to get change to get a Bee, since I wanted to read about the governor’s plan about merging small water districts.

But this Chronicle in the Bee news rack had a hidden gem.

You may have heard that an El Nino is gathering strength. El Nino conditions happen when the Pacific trade winds die out and warm Pacific water heads east to the West Coast of America and South America.

The Chronicle gem is a sports page column by Tom Stienstra, a guy with a red and gray beard and a cowboy hat.

Some of you may have heard about the 15-pound 30-inch purple sea slugs washing up on shore along Alameda County. Stienstra notes that while the purple slugs, called sea hares, are found in Northern California they are “more common off Baja than anywhere.”

With the life span of one-year for the sea hares, Stienstra hints their appearance in San Francisco Bay may be a sign of El Nino.

But the real big hint is the 5 degrees of warming along the coast. Stienstra had some real facts to report. A weather buoy 18 miles off of Lands End in San Francisco measured a sea temperature of 56.8 degrees compared to 51.8 degrees in the first week of April. Wow! Five degrees is huge.

Stienstra noted that the 1982-83 El Nino was foretold when a bonito from L.A. was caught off the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

That year 72.85 inches of rain fell on El Dorado County. I wrote a lead paragraph about the weather that year that said, “If you were 6 feet tall and spent the winter standing in a rain barrel you would have drowned.” Corny. I know it. But that was the first year weather scientists used the term “El Nino,” which is the name Peruvian fisherman give the warm water phenomenon, which appears around Christmastime, hence Spanish name, “The Christ Child.”

That year was second to the 78.13inches recorded in Placerville in 1889-90. That winter is memorialized in a postcard view of the Belltower and downtown Placerville covered with snow and just a carriage track through the snow downtown.

“The best El Nino forecast that year (1981-82) came from fishermen who caught bonito, barracuda and marlin on the Bay Area coast for the first time in history,” Stienstra concluded.

I’m going to buy a Chronicle every Monday to make sure I keep up with Tom Sienstra’s outdoors column.

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