There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about El Nino among us non-meteorologists. Here are two examples from Sunset magazine’s November 2015 issue:

“Before El Nino rears up this winter as predicted, here are easy ways to ready your garden for rainfall.”

And, “Because no matter how impatient we Westerners are for El Nino to arrive, the ensuing gray, gloomy weather might eventually feel a bit, well, gloomy.”

El Nino is not something that might “rear up,” and it is not going to “arrive” here in the American West, ever.

Why? What is El Nino?

I guess an official definition would be one given by the National Weather Service. They say, “El Nino refers to the above-average sea-surface temperatures that periodically develop across the east-central equatorial Pacific.”

That’s all El Nino is: relatively warm ocean water down near Peru.

That warm ocean water ends up affecting the nearby atmosphere and weather patterns, and then weather patterns around the globe, but those related effects are related effects and not El Nino itself.

So, El Nino is not rain, and more than that, El Nino is already “here.” That is, the condition of that certain part of the Pacific Ocean being warmer than normal has already been met.

What may or may not arrive in Southern California are the heavy rains that are sometimes related to that warm equatorial ocean water. And if they do arrive, then we will be having heavy rain that is possibly, partially caused by El Nino; we will not be experiencing the “arrival” of El Nino.