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The Foundation Equation: El Nino, La Nina and Your Home

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With the weather patterns taking a turn let’s take a walk down the memory lane. History can teach us many valuable lessons, if only we look close enough.

People examine various points in history in which the gravest injustices were done or the most revolutionary ideas were introduced. From these we learn what we should not do and what we should do. Earth’s weather and climates also have a history, one that is as long as it is deep. Now, you may be thinking, “I know where this is going – global warming.” Actually, I would like to magnify the scope and bring it closer to your home. I will take you on a walk through weathers past to give you insight into how the occasional rain, or those warm sunny days are affecting your home.

El Niño & La Niña

You’ve probably heard of El Niño and La Niña in the weather news at some point in your life. Both are names that have been given to a natural event that occurs in our climate. They take place when the Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere above it change from their normal temperatures. El Niño are events associated with an increase in temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific resulting in warmer than usual weather. La Niña is the opposite, it is associated with this same area experiencing a drop in temperature resulting in cooler than usual weather. Together, these two events produce a cyclical affect known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation or ENSO. During an ENSO event the ocean temperatures will become warmer than usual and in some areas cooler than usual.

The typical life span of an El Niño event is one cycle, or one year, from the fall of one year to the fall of the next. La Niña events, however, are not as short. In fact, it is not unheard of to see a multi-year La Niña event. For instance, in 1998 to 2001 the La Niña affected three consecutive years starting in the fall of 1998 to the fall of 2001.

So what does this mean for Colorado?

Last year we saw the effects of a strong El Niño. This year will be even crazier. Not only will the El Niño cycle come to an end, but a complete reversal to a La Niña will occur by the middle of hurricane season. Normally this means a decrease in wind shear which usually will result in an increase in tropical activity. However, that is not the case this year. The North Atlantic water temperatures have been recorded as being a lot cooler than normal, which will result in a neutralization of the La Niña activity that is typical of its cycle. This spells for drier than normal summer conditions.

With last year’s El Niño, one of the strongest El Niño’s recorded, coming to an end, we are still experiencing its effects. Much of Colorado is still wet and cooler than usual, even as the cycle is approaching its last stretch. Now, where this gets tricky is when the drastic switch takes place from El Niño to La Niña. Colorado will go from extremely wet conditions, immediately to very dry conditions; and this has a direct correlation with the soil.

When the weather makes such sudden changes the results can be seen in the soil. With the wet season causing the soil to expand and shift, the dry season will take its toll by drying out the moisture from the soil. This will cause the already expanded soil to compact and settle, leaving large cracks and holes in the ground.

So then, how exactly does it affect you?

Many homeowners experienced the flooding problems that were commonplace last spring. This year we will see a different problem. Due to a dry atmosphere the soil below houses’ foundations will dry out and separate creating small to large holes below the homes’ foundation. As a result of this, foundations will settle, risking the entire home. The best solution for this is to stabilize your homes foundation with push piers which will prevent the compacting of the soil from affecting your foundation. With Push Piers installed, your home no longer sits on soil, instead it is being held up by Push Piers that go all the way down to bedrock (where the shifting and settling does not occur). Colorado weather can be crazy at times, but if you are prepared for it, then there is nothing that cannot be handled.

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