The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center on Monday released a new long-range forecast that doesn’t look good for California’s water supply. It indicates the state is likely to see below-normal rainfall through November 30.
Some in the media are making a big deal out of the fact that the Sierra Nevada snowpack is above normal for the month, and they’re pointing to the historically strong El Niño weather condition as the cause. Although the moisture is certainly trending in the right direction, it means absolutely nothing in terms of resolving the drought.
That’s because it is usually January through March that make or break California’s water supply situation. Those are normally the wettest months of the year. If they turn out wet, all is good. If they are drier than normal, as they have been for the past four years, then drought will continue. It’s simply too soon to be raising anyone’s hopes.
“It’s too early to really get a good idea,” said Jan Null, an independent forecaster based in the Bay Area who specializes in El Niño analysis. “Historically, January, February and March are the big months.”
The recent storms are not even caused by El Niño, according to Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service forecaster based in Sacramento.
“Rather, this is a more ‘typical’ Northern California weather pattern for this time of year,” Mead told Capital Press. “It’s just that we haven’t seen a typical fall/winter season over the past four years, so these systems seem more unusual to folks.”
So don’t get too concerned about the drying trend over the next two weeks, if it even comes to pass. Instead, put your emotional energy into January, a true make-or-break month.
Top image: The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center indicates (by the brown shading in this image) in a forecast released Monday that California is likely to see below-average precipitation through Nov. 30. (National Weather Service)