Waiting for El NiƱo

Jul 28, 2015

It seems like El Niño often turns into El Floppo, but that doesn't mean weather watchers can't weigh in with their predictions and best guesses. And the latest guess is that a truly Super El Niño is on the way.


From the Chronicle's Mike Moffitt: "The broad swath of warmer-than-usual seawater is spreading and deepening. The two largest concentrations are off the coast of Peru, where water is 4 degrees Centigrade warmer than usual, and just west of Vancouver and Seattle — 3 degrees warmer."


"If this El Niño continues to grow, it could surpass the modern record-setting 1997-98 El Niño event, which inundated the Bay Area and the rest of California for months, causing flooding, mudslides and subsidences, and heavy snowfalls in the Sierra."


"The latest data from the National Weather Service's North American Multi-Model Ensemble indicates a greater-than 95 percent chance of a strong El Niño and a greater-than 60 percent chance of the strongest El Niño on record."


Speaking of water, LA County officials have ordered a temporary ban on new vineyards in the North Santa Monica Mountains, including Malibu, because grape vines use lots of well water and that depletes supplies. Go figure: We didn't even know Malibu had vineyards.


From S. Irene Virbila in the LA Times: "The ban was imposed last month when supervisors saw an increase in new vineyard applications just as residents in other parts of the county were being asked to cut back water use because of the statewide drought."


"County officials have received 51 applications for new vineyards in the last 10 months, whereas the previous year generated three. The mountain area includes unincorporated Malibu, Agoura, parts of Calabasas and Topanga."


"The number of applications for new vineyards worried me in the aggregate because of the overall amount of additional water that could be drawn down, as well as there being no information about what chemicals or pesticides might be added to runoff," Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. "These were not just half an acre or small backyard vintners, but applicants for larger vineyards. People just drill wells. They draw water."


Prying emails out of the state PUC has taken quite awhile -- and apparently the end still isn't in sight: PUC President Michael Picker isn't ready to turn them over.


From the U-T's Jeff MacDonald: "State regulators do not appear ready to comply with a July 31 deadline to release thousands of emails requested by the chairman of the Assembly committee overseeing the California Public Utilities Commission."


"Commission President Michael Picker said in a letter on Friday that he is working to respond to the lawmaker’s request for emails pertaining to the failed San Onofre power plant north of Oceanside, but gave no indication he would turn over any records by the deadline this Friday."


"The commission president said it is not up to him to “interfere” in an ongoing proceeding in which he is not the commissioner assigned to oversee the matter.


When voters approved Proposition 47, the goal was to allow the reduction of nonviolent and some other offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, at least in part to ease prison crowding." But it turns out that the initiative may also apply to juveniles.


From the LAT's Tony Perry:Now, after a major court decision last week, Alejandro's case may establish a precedent assuring juveniles throughout California the same reduced sentences and other treatment provided to adults under Proposition 47 passed by voters in 2014."


"The measure, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and the California Teachers Assn. but opposed by many prosecutors and police, is an attempt to reduce prison overcrowding and to stress rehabilitation rather than punishment for nonviolent crimes such as petty theft and drug possession..."


"The measure amended state law to reclassify thefts like Alejandro's, in which the loot was valued at less than $950, as misdemeanor shoplifting, with a maximum sentence of eight months. Several crimes once categorized as felonies were reduced to misdemeanors."


The complexities of the new health care landscape aren't easy to figure out, and if you happen to be a family with both Medi-Cal and Covered California coverage, the challenges can be daunting.


From Sarah Hellesen in the Sacramento Bee: "While officials in both agencies say they want to help the families, the state has yet to set up an effective protocol to make that happen. In some cases, families have been able to get insurance only after going in person to a Medi-Cal office, calling Covered California from there and passing the phone to the Medi-Cal worker."


"The problem stems from the different income requirements set up under the Affordable Care Act to qualify children and parents for Medi-Cal."


"Low-income families typically would like everyone in their household to be in Medi-Cal because the program is almost cost-free. But if a family’s income is more than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, only children will qualify for Medi-Cal, and parents will need to seek insurance through Covered California, where premiums and deductibles apply."


And finally, from our voluminous "Water, Water" file comes a tale of drug-laced water in Canada.


"Researchers at McGill University found water discharged from waste-water treatment plants in the Grand River watershed has the potential to contaminate sources of drinking water with drugs such as morphine, cocaine and oxycodone."


"The study — published in the journal Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry — says the drugs are found only in relatively limited quantities in the river water."

"However, it notes their concentration did not decline with distance downstream from the waste-water treatment plant and says many of the drugs were not removed completely during drinking-water treatment."


But there's good news here: It's not fluoride, so it can't be a communist plot...





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