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Jim_in_CA

California Drought

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With the recent cold event wrapping up - I'm now curious to discuss the ongoing and increasingly extreme drought in California.  From everything I have read and looked at, it seems there's very little chance of this breaking anytime soon.  This blurb from my local Bay Area NWS office is on point:



for your information...looking all of the way out through Christmas day currently
shows dry conditions remaining across our entire area. 384 hour
accumulated precipitation off the 0z operational GFS shows almost
all of California without any precipitation for the next 16 days. In
addition, the GFS ensemble shows at best a 20 percent chance of
picking up a little light rain during just a short period around
the 24th of December with all other time periods dry. The Canadian
ensembles also indicate dry weather through Christmas day. If the
models verify it would mean that downtown San Francisco will need
to pick up well over 3 inches of rain in just the final seven
days of 2013 to not have the driest calendar year on record (keep
in mind records there date back all of the way to 1849).

So here in the Bay Area at least, we're on pace for the driest calendar year in recorded history, and by a massive margin.  The water year has also been paltry.  By  my count, here in the South Bay we've received well under an inch of rain total for OCT-DEC thus far.  About half an inch in a NOV storm, and just under 0.2 this past weekend.  The North Bay has more in real terms, but not really in % of normal terms.  I found it somewhat amusing that it rained more back home in Virginia in one day before Thanksgiving than my part of the Bay Area has seen all year.


 


My amateur take is that we probably won't see much change unless and until we can get a decent El Nino event.  California seems excruciatingly dependent on ENSO for water.  Many were predicting a neutral ENSO transitioning to El Nino by late winter or spring.  It now looks likely ENSO neutral conditions will persist, potentially into summer 2014.  The current ENSO status, while officially neutral, is actually on the negative side of neutral rather than positive.  So with moderate La Nina most recently and "negative neutral" now, I think it is quite unsurprising the atmosphere has remained in a droughty La Nina configuration with a seemingly unmovable E PAC Ridge (as an aside, the constant presence of this feature bears an uncanny resemblance to the dreaded SE Ridge that was along the SE US coast for several years recently and led to the major drought in the Southeast which has since broken).  While some storms will undoubtedly sneak through at some point, until we get a moderate to strong El Nino to "reset" things, I don't see any hope for a large scale long term pattern change leading to a wet winter overall.


 


Does anyone disagree?  Can anyone offer hope?  :).  And for those of you that have lived in CA a while - when do water restrictions start kicking in?  When do the trees out in the wild start dying?  I've never lived somewhere so dry in my life, so I can't imagine things surviving another drought year, but apparently there have been multi-decadal droughts in California's history, so maybe the native plants here can take it?


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Great blogpost on the California drought and the persistent ridging over the last 12 months.  http://www.weatherwest.com/archives/1038

As a met. in the northern Sac. valley, people are really starting to freak out.  I'm starting to get emotional phone calls and emails from people asking me what's going on.  Wells running dry, reservoirs dropping, etc..  The Central Valley is the biggest producer of fruits, vegetables and nuts for the US.  If things don't change soon we're going to have some serious issues next summer.

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Great blogpost on the California drought and the persistent ridging over the last 12 months.  http://www.weatherwest.com/archives/1038

As a met. in the northern Sac. valley, people are really starting to freak out.  I'm starting to get emotional phone calls and emails from people asking me what's going on.  Wells running dry, reservoirs dropping, etc..  The Central Valley is the biggest producer of fruits, vegetables and nuts for the US.  If things don't change soon we're going to have some serious issues next summer.

 

Yeah I hear you - I follow the weatherwest blog closely.  I also follow the Tahoe blog on Open Snow - granted it's skiing focused, but he has some good insights pattern wise as well.

 

Things are still looking bad for at least 2 weeks.  The GFS seems to have some kind of moderate storm toward the end of the run but that's way too far out to bank on.  Of course, a few big storms could turn the water year around in a hurry, but it's starting to get pretty scary.  The air quality in the Bay Area has also been beyond abysmal - a result of stagnant high pressure, offshore winds, and no rain.

 

I'm on the east coast until JAN 6 - nice to be somewhere that isn't drying up and blowing away (or burning) for a while!  Here's hoping there's some signs of a pattern change by the time I return - otherwise, I'm betting we can expect a drought declaration by mid to late January.

 

Just some food for thought - but it looks like the water year has been wetter in Las Vegas so far than San Francisco.  You know it's dry when...

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whoa, I had no idea it was that bad

 

Yeah its scary bad.  Massive water restrictions are soon going into effect in Sacramento and I expect other areas may follow if the situation doesn't change:  http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/video/9711163-water-rationing/

 

That said - there's at least a bit of hope now, as the GFS is showing something of a pattern change with zonal flow in the 10 day range.  Unfortunately, the Euro isn't really on board with the idea yet.  My thought is the change will likely occur, but possibly more toward the end of the month (e.g., GFS may be a bit early with it).

 

I still think we finish the winter rainy season well below average, but I'm hopeful we'll get at least some rain and snow to prevent a worst case scenario.

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Already a major fire started by some hapless campers NE of Los Angeles. Better hope this doesn't last into Santa Ana season or there will be hell (quite literally) on the horizon.

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You know, it's interesting to look at peoples' reactions from a policy standpoint. When we lived in MA (42" rain average per year), anytime there was even a little drought there were water restrictions. People were fine with it. Here in CO (15" average), the normal policy is for some degree of restrictions every summer unless it's wetter than normal, and last summer we almost got into a situation of no outdoor watering at all. People grumble, but again they are OK with it. 

 

In CA, the most remarkable thing is that even Northern CA is very very dry; southern CA is normally semi-arid and so I would think people would be used to it and actually welcome some kind of restrictions. But watering restrictions of any kind seem, at least from what you hear on the news, to be a horrifying thought. Maybe it's just the news filtering out the normal reactions. Just seems curious to me.

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looks more or less the same every time I check

 

 

 

Actually it is waffling quite a bit now.  I don't have access to the Euro but apparently it is showing something of a pattern change.  The GFS is as well, it's just waffling on the exact position and timing of the retrograded ridge which, of course, impacts the total precip plot.  I think we'll see some kind of change in early Feb, and more chances for moisture.  Whether it amounts to even normal for Feb is a much more open question.  

 

 

You know, it's interesting to look at peoples' reactions from a policy standpoint. When we lived in MA (42" rain average per year), anytime there was even a little drought there were water restrictions. People were fine with it. Here in CO (15" average), the normal policy is for some degree of restrictions every summer unless it's wetter than normal, and last summer we almost got into a situation of no outdoor watering at all. People grumble, but again they are OK with it. 

 

In CA, the most remarkable thing is that even Northern CA is very very dry; southern CA is normally semi-arid and so I would think people would be used to it and actually welcome some kind of restrictions. But watering restrictions of any kind seem, at least from what you hear on the news, to be a horrifying thought. Maybe it's just the news filtering out the normal reactions. Just seems curious to me.

 

Northern CA is not very very dry - parts of the Redwood Empire average 50" or more of rain a year.  Santa Cruz on the coast near the Bay Area is around 38" a year, Big Sur on the Central Coast averages 45".  San Francisco itself average 20", and just across the bridge in Marin the average is 30" +.  Silicon Valley, which is rainshadowed, is more like 15-16" - but that's a very local rain shadow.

 

For SoCal, people seem to think it's a desert - it's not.  It's Meditteranean.  The average rainfall in LA is around 15".  Now as you go east into Riverside / San Bernadino, it does get considerably more arid - but the greater part of the LA area is not desert.

 

Paradoxically, the parts of California that get the most rain typically are being hit hardest by this drought.  Primarily this is because when you get 50" a year, you don't need to kind of storage somewhere like LA does.  LA and SF actually have quite a bit of storage capacity because they are used to droughts (though not droughts this intense).  The biggest loser in the short term is agriculture and ecology (trees and such in the wild).

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Actually it is waffling quite a bit now.  I don't have access to the Euro but apparently it is showing something of a pattern change.  The GFS is as well, it's just waffling on the exact position and timing of the retrograded ridge which, of course, impacts the total precip plot.  I think we'll see some kind of change in early Feb, and more chances for moisture.  Whether it amounts to even normal for Feb is a much more open question.  

 

 

 

Northern CA is not very very dry - parts of the Redwood Empire average 50" or more of rain a year.  Santa Cruz on the coast near the Bay Area is around 38" a year, Big Sur on the Central Coast averages 45".  San Francisco itself average 20", and just across the bridge in Marin the average is 30" +.  Silicon Valley, which is rainshadowed, is more like 15-16" - but that's a very local rain shadow.

 

For SoCal, people seem to think it's a desert - it's not.  It's Meditteranean.  The average rainfall in LA is around 15".  Now as you go east into Riverside / San Bernadino, it does get considerably more arid - but the greater part of the LA area is not desert.

 

Paradoxically, the parts of California that get the most rain typically are being hit hardest by this drought.  Primarily this is because when you get 50" a year, you don't need to kind of storage somewhere like LA does.  LA and SF actually have quite a bit of storage capacity because they are used to droughts (though not droughts this intense).  The biggest loser in the short term is agriculture and ecology (trees and such in the wild).

 

I hear what you are saying about the LA Basin, but to the average easterner, 15" a year IS a desert ;)  Most eastern cities get 3 times that much rain.  Even San Francisco's average would be a record obliterating drought in the east.

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I hear what you are saying about the LA Basin, but to the average easterner, 15" a year IS a desert ;)  Most eastern cities get 3 times that much rain.  Even San Francisco's average would be a record obliterating drought in the east.

 

Oh yeah, I hear you coming from the East Coast myself :).  I'm just trying to dispel this idea I hear a lot which is basically "isn't California used to this, it never rains there anyway!"  The average East Coaster should imagine a city like Boston getting only 8" of rain.  That's the magnitude of this drought in the normally extremely wet northern part of the state.  Pure insanity, and unprecedented back to 1850.

 

And the Sierra snowpack - there's been something like 50-60" total so far this winter.  Average at say Donner Pass is 400"+.  Donner Summit has had 800" in a heavy year.    200" is a really low year.  So to have 50-60" when we're mostly through January is, again, insanity.

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Actually it is waffling quite a bit now.  I don't have access to the Euro but apparently it is showing something of a pattern change.  The GFS is as well, it's just waffling on the exact position and timing of the retrograded ridge which, of course, impacts the total precip plot.  I think we'll see some kind of change in early Feb, and more chances for moisture.  Whether it amounts to even normal for Feb is a much more open question.  

 

 

 

Northern CA is not very very dry - parts of the Redwood Empire average 50" or more of rain a year.  Santa Cruz on the coast near the Bay Area is around 38" a year, Big Sur on the Central Coast averages 45".  San Francisco itself average 20", and just across the bridge in Marin the average is 30" +.  Silicon Valley, which is rainshadowed, is more like 15-16" - but that's a very local rain shadow.

 

For SoCal, people seem to think it's a desert - it's not.  It's Meditteranean.  The average rainfall in LA is around 15".  Now as you go east into Riverside / San Bernadino, it does get considerably more arid - but the greater part of the LA area is not desert.

 

Paradoxically, the parts of California that get the most rain typically are being hit hardest by this drought.  Primarily this is because when you get 50" a year, you don't need to kind of storage somewhere like LA does.  LA and SF actually have quite a bit of storage capacity because they are used to droughts (though not droughts this intense).  The biggest loser in the short term is agriculture and ecology (trees and such in the wild).

That's actually what I meant. Northern CA is very very dry compared to their usual, southern CA semiarid (15", same as Denver). But the lack of routine watering restrictions in southern CA, along with the seemingly mild "voluntary 20-30% cut" proposed, surprised me.

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Long time CA resident before moving to Ohio a few winters ago.  My wife and I traveled back there this December to visit my side of the family and were treated to some gorgeous weather while exploring the central coast.  I knew in my heart I knew this really shouldn't be happening, however

 

Even in the drought years of 2006 through 2011, I remember heading up past Mt. Shasta on some drives up to Oregon and thinking that's one place that will always stay snow-capped.

 

The recent pictures i saw of the peak have me shaking my head in disbelief.

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This summer is going to be really really bad if things don't change fast.  Lake Shasta (largest reservoir in California) is very low for January(131' from the top).  With no snow pack it is going to plummet this spring and summer.  10 miles to the south, Redding has a 26.50" precipitation deficit since the drought really took hold last January.  KRDD will likely or come very close to averaging 70 for the average January high.  Normal average high for the month of April is 70.5.  This is all people are talking about right now. I can't go anywhere without it being brought up by multiple people.

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This summer is going to be really really bad if things don't change fast.  Lake Shasta (largest reservoir in California) is very low for January(131' from the top).  With no snow pack it is going to plummet this spring and summer.  10 miles to the south, Redding has a 26.50" precipitation deficit since the drought really took hold last January.  KRDD will likely or come very close to averaging 70 for the average January high.  Normal average high for the month of April is 70.5.  This is all people are talking about right now. I can't go anywhere without it being brought up by multiple people.

Just read this article

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/01/29/report-some-bay-area-communities-could-run-out-of-water-within-4-months/

 

Things could be really scary soon

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Pretty sobering stats for the ongoing California drought.  Warmest January - July on record, beats 1934 by 1.4 degrees F.  YTD PDSI is all the highest drought severity on record.  Currently active monsoon will do little as we enter our 4th year of drought.  post-1853-0-55890400-1407859485_thumb.pnpost-1853-0-15566600-1407859512_thumb.pn

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Impressive Tstroms in southeastern California today, lots of flood warnings.

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Some short-term drought relief yesterday, though far from doing anything in terms of the long-term drought.  0.30" of rain at Monterey airport (KMRY) - that's the wettest day since April 25, when 0.37" was recorded.  The last rain >0.50" was March 1, when 0.88" was recorded.  San Francisco (KSFO) also picked up 0.41", a record for the date.

 

Looking at the bigger picture though, much of the state of California is still running <50% normal during the last 12 months.  Let's hope for a very wet winter.

post-378-0-14678800-1411768031_thumb.png

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Weather West has a summary up building off the paper he he helped author for the BAMS extreme weather from a climate perspective special issue:

http://www.weatherwest.com/archives/1797

http://www2.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/publications/bulletin-of-the-american-meteorological-society-bams/explaining-extreme-events-of-2013-from-a-climate-perspective/

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Weather West has a summary up building off the paper he he helped author for the BAMS extreme weather from a climate perspective special issue:

http://www.weatherwest.com/archives/1797

http://www2.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/publications/bulletin-of-the-american-meteorological-society-bams/explaining-extreme-events-of-2013-from-a-climate-perspective/

 

 

 

some wild nuggets in here

 

 

The severity of California’s drought is so great that it is starting to change the physical geography of the state. The Sierra Nevada’s mountain peaks have risen measurably since 2012 as the Earth’s crust rebounds from the net loss of 63 trillion gallons of water—an amount equivalent to the entire annual ice melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet

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Great drought relief today!  0.73" so far in Monterey close to the bulls-eye, general 0.25-0.75 throughout the region with moderate to heavy rain still falling.  Hi-res models also show a narrow convective band moving through late tonight / early tomorrow am, perhaps offering another 0.25" locally. 

 

post-378-0-87131000-1414796557_thumb.gif

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Weather West reports SF and LA set Dec 2 rainfall records -- on the same day.

Edit: don't see an event report for SF-Downtown but the 1.61" total from yesterday beats the 1.51" of 2001.

Socal:

post-9793-0-59549100-1417617192_thumb.jp

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Flood Watches hoisted for most of Central and Northern California. The Sierra Nevadas may be measuring snowfall in feet across the crests. Flood Watches extend into Western Nevada. This active Nino like pattern bodes well in easing the multi year drought.

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Shaping up to be a potentially impressive event for wind and rain alike, SF and Sacramento offices advertising sustained winds in the 25-35MPH range with gusts to 40-50 and 35-45 gusting to 60-70 respectively.

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