This Year’s El Niño To Be A Monster

What You Should Know About 2014’s Predicted Record El Niño

The West has been in a severe drought for several years now, but if an overwhelming majority of climate scientists are correct, the weather is about to change drastically; current sea conditions are pointing to a record El Niño later this year. Based on previous El Niño encounters, that could spell disaster for many commercial property owners who have placed roof maintenance low on their list of priorities during the long spell of dry weather in our region.

El Niño refers to a set of global climate conditions arising from elevated sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the Equator. The rise in sea temperatures pumps huge amounts of heat and moisture into the atmosphere affecting patterns of air pressure and precipitation globally. Strong El Niño events occur approximately every 20 years, but scientists say that pace has been increasing.

The last major El Niño, an unusually powerful episode in 1997-98, brought rainfall of more than 200% above normal to California, Nevada and Arizona. Powerful storms hit the coast, triggering destructive landslides and floods. In February 1998 alone, Southern California saw as much as 20 inches of rainfall versus a 3.8-inch monthly average, while the northern part of the state was drenched with 22 inches, nearly five times the 4.6-inch monthly average rainfall. Some portions of the region saw as much as 47 inches of rain that winter, while Nevada and Arizona experienced rainfall totals as much as 250% above normal.

That’s a lot of rain, and while it may bring welcome relief to our region’s drought problems, commercial property owners and property managers should be especially worried about a new set of problems. The extraordinary amounts of rain in the ‘97/’98 El Nino winter left many owners stranded with severely leaking roofs and flood conditions inside their properties. To make matters worse, commercial roofers themselves became so flooded with emergency calls that on average they were booked as much as four months out.

The 1997-89 El Niño was the strongest on record, but scientists are concerned this year’s event may be even worse. In a recent New York Times article, scientists indicated there was a better than 75% chance of a significant El Niño event, while an article in Wired Magazine went even further, saying this year’s El Nino could be a monster.

No one knows for sure if El Niño will make an appearance or not this year, and if it does, what its severity might be. But signs are pointing toward the inevitability and most scientists are predicting a record year. As a property owner or manager, here are five key points you should consider to make sure you are prepared:

1. There is a 75% chance of a significant El Niño event occurring this year, and it is expected to shatter rainfall records set in 1997/98 for the region.
2. Over the last few years of minimal rainfall and a struggling economy, roof inspections and roof maintenance have been low priorities for many property owners and managers; in many cases it has been years since roofs have been professionally inspected.
3. During the height of the record rainfall during the ‘97/’98 El Nino, commercial roofing contractors were booked three to four months out, even for emergency repairs.
4. Weather or not you believe the hype; the most important step you can take to be prepared for a potential El Nino season is FREE. Have your roofs inspected as soon as possible, and if necessary have repairs completed this summer before the beginning of the rainy season.
5. Don’t wait until it’s too late! There is no cost or obligation for a roof inspection and knowing now will provide you with the time to make an informed decision about the protection of your assets and your tenant’s assets.