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Hot Again: 2020 Sets Yet Another Global Temperature Record

Earth’s rising fever hit or neared record hot temperature levels in 2020, global weather groups reported Thursday.

While NASA and a couple of other measurement groups said 2020 passed or essentially tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, more agencies, including the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said last year came in a close second or third. The differences in rankings mostly turned on how scientists accounted for data gaps in the Arctic, which is warming faster than the rest of the globe.

2020 Ties 2016 as Hottest Year on Record, Even Without Warming Boost from El Niño

Global warming pushed temperatures into record territory in 2020, in effect tying 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to data released Thursday by U.S. science agencies.

Last year’s average global surface temperature was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the late 19th century average, according to NASA. It was the fifth consecutive year of more than 2 degrees above that base line. Indeed, the seven hottest years in 140 years of record keeping are the last seven. In descending record order, they are 2020 and 2016, 2019, 2017, 2015, 2018 and 2014.

A “Forever” Drought Takes Shape in the West

The Southwest U.S. is mired in an ever-worsening drought, one that has left deer starving in Hawaii, turned parts of the Rio Grande into a wading pool, and set a record in Colorado for the most days of “exceptional drought.”

Many Scientists Now Say Global Warming Could Stop Relatively Quickly After Emissions Go to Zero

Parts of the world economy may have been on pause during 2020, dampening greenhouse gas emissions for a while. But that didn’t slow the overall buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which reached its highest level in millions of years.

If anything, research during the year showed global warming is accelerating. Symptoms of the fever include off-the-charts heat waves on land and in the oceans, and a hyperactive and destructive Atlantic hurricane season.

Dry Start to California’s Water Year

A dry start to California’s water year is reflected in the season’s first snow survey of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. The statewide snowpack is 52% of average for Dec. 30. On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30% of California’s water needs.

“The first snowpack survey of the water year points to California’s climate variability, which is why a diverse water portfolio is needed to provide a reliable supply,” said Goldy Herbon, San Diego County Water Authority senior water resources specialist. “The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have successfully diversified water sources, and continue to expand those sources, to ensure our supply meets the needs of the region’s 3.3 million people and its $245 billion economy.”

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Dry Start to California’s Water Year

A dry start to California’s water year is reflected in the season’s first snow survey of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. The statewide snowpack is 52% of average for Dec. 30. On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30% of California’s water needs.

The California Department of Water Resources manual survey at Phillips Station recorded 30.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 10.5 inches, which is 93% of the January 1 average at that location, according to DWR officials. The snow water equivalent,or SWE, measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast.

While the Phillips Station measurement was positive, DWR’s electronic readings from 130 stations placed throughout California show the statewide snowpack’s SWE is 5 inches, or 52% of the December 30 average.

“The snow survey results reflect California’s dry start to the water year and provide an important reminder that our state’s variable weather conditions are made more extreme by climate change,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We still have several months left to bring us up to average, but we should prepare now for extended dry conditions. The Department, along with other state agencies and local water districts, is prepared to support communities should conditions remain dry.”

Water supply diversity meets regional demand

“The first snowpack survey of the water year points to California’s climate variability, which is why a diverse water portfolio is needed to provide a reliable supply,” said Goldy Herbon, San Diego County Water Authority senior water resources specialist. “The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have successfully diversified water sources, and continue to expand those sources, to ensure our supply meets the needs of the region’s 3.3 million people and its $245 billion economy.”

The supply sources include water from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, where ten workers volunteered to live on-site in 2020 to keep the water flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sierra Nevada Snowpack-Snow Water Content

Climate change brings less snow

When the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts, it feeds into rivers and is stored in reservoirs across California. Reservoirs are tapped as needed during the dry months. However, state officials again said that climate change is affecting California’s snowpack, as more precipitation falls as rain and less as snow. And they urged Californians to make water conservation a “way of life.”

“Today’s survey brought a first glimpse of how the state’s snowpack is shaping up, but there is a lot of winter still ahead,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section. “While the dry conditions during late summer and fall have led to a below average snowpack, it is still encouraging to have the amount of snow we already have with two of the three typically wettest months still to come.”

DWR conducts five snow surveys at Phillips Station each winter near the first of each month, January through April and, if necessary, May. Guzman said the next survey is scheduled for February 2.

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Sean De Guzman (R), chief of the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, and Jeremy Hill, DWR water resources engineer, conduct the first snow survey of the 2021 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. Photo: Kelly M. Grow/DWR

Dismal California Snowpack is Bad Sign for Water Supplies

A month into California’s peak storm season, the lack of wet weather is beginning to weigh on the state’s water supply.

The snowpack in the Sierra and southern Cascades, which provides as much as a third of the water used by California cities and farms, is about 55% of average for this time of year. It hasn’t been this low at this time since 2017, when the state was emerging from a five-year drought.

Southern California Experiences La Niña-Related Dry Spell

Barely any rain and it’s already mid-December? Malibu is experiencing drought conditions—but a drought it is not. That’s a key difference: a “drought” can actually only be declared by the Governor of California; his declaration releases key relief funding for several agencies. “Drought conditions,” on the other hand, is a classification that marks a series of factors that could lead to a drought down the line. 

Santa May Not Need the Heavy Red Coat When He Visits Southern California

Santa might be able to lose the heavy red coat when he makes his rounds in the Southland, and he probably won’t need an umbrella either.

The extended outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration favors above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in the Los Angeles region from Dec. 24 through Dec. 30.

San Diego Might Not Receive Significant Rainfall During December

It’s possible that San Diego County won’t receive significant rainfall during December, which would significantly elevate the wildfire danger throughout the region, according to the National Weather Service.

“The storms that have been forming off the Pacific Northwest are not dropping into Southern California,” said Dan Gregorio, a weather service forecaster.