Yes, it’s been pretty dry so far this winter, but there is no need to worry. The major winter storm that roared through Southern California Monday proved we can erase a month’s worth of rain deficit in one day. I recently explained how the climate where we live — the Mediterranean Climate — sees the majority of its annual rainfall in the winter months. In fact, a whopping 80% of Southern California’s annual rain and snow falls from December through March.
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.
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.
A Monday storm that dumped much-needed rain and snow across San Diego County was expected to peter out overnight into Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in San Diego.
Monday’s storm brought the county’s first significant traces of precipitation since the first week of November, when a North Pacific storm dropped several inches of snow in the mountains and some rain off to the west.
Earlier this year, the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes launched a new sub-seasonal to seasonal forecast product to better predict the influence atmospheric rivers will have on the Western United States. Better and more accurate forecasting tools for atmospheric rivers are critical for a number of community uses, including water management, agriculture, insurance and commodities trading, to name a few.
The demand for better atmospheric forecasting tools has facilitated the development of the new S2S forecasting products launched by CW3E this year.
More than a month and a half into this year’s rainy season and significant precipitation was finally falling on Tuesday in Northern California. The state could use it in more ways than one.
In some places, more than an inch of precipitation fell Friday in Northern California while other places, including Sacramento, saw only a fraction of that. Whatever came down in the first rains of the season were a mere drop in the bucket.
San Diego researchers are getting a better understanding of the storm systems that bring the region most of its rain and they are getting that information the old fashion way — from weather balloons. Last March, gray rain-filled skies seemed to dip into the ocean as a storm moved across the region.
It won’t take much, and the Pass Area as we know it may look dramatically different come wet weather this fall and winter. That’s according to public safety officials from various Riverside County agencies who are working to get the word out about the danger of “flood after fire.”
Meteorologist Emily Heller says the weather lately reminds her of what Northern California saw in 2018 just before the Camp Fire set the town of Paradise ablaze. For weeks, there was no rain, excessive heat, and dry winds.
As Americans hunker down to weather the pandemic this winter at home, nearly every facet of life will remain upended to safeguard against the coronavirus. Millions are working from home and learning remotely and even holiday gatherings will look a lot different this year. Staying closer to home may mean fewer weather worries for commutes and disruptions to daily activities, but AccuWeather has you covered on what you can expect weather-wise as we navigate uncertain times.