DISCUSSION: Of increased interest has been the diminishing figures of high drought intensity in California. The holiday season proved to be fruitful especially into the New Year as we wrap up our first month into 2017. With the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the weather in the Eastern Pacific has been enough to keep us captivated from the Pineapple Express to the expansive low that brought unsettled weather this week to the Western states.
Attached are images of the U.S. Drought Monitor for the state of California, January 26th, 2016 and January 31st, 2017 nearly a year apart. During our last investigation, observing the drought monitor for December 2015 and December 2016, impacts for D4 Exceptional Drought had decreased nearly 40%. With data taken from January 2016 and January 2017 D4 Exceptional Drought is at a 0%, even with D3 Extreme Drought at 1.87% with 38.98% of the states’ area not experiencing any drought, whereas there was 0% reportable of no drought conditions seen in the state.
Within 52 weeks the US Drought Monitor has published a class change from January 31st, 2017 compared to February 2nd, 2016. Many of the changes reported can be seen in central/northern California, seeing as much as 5 Class Improvement. There is still work to be done however as southern California reports no change to some 2 Class degradation in drought. Degradation isn’t entirely apparent however reviewing the January 31st release, much of the D0-D3 drought area is concentrated in central/southern California.
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~Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
DISCUSSION: As a consequence of the recent heavy rainfall totals which have been deposited across many parts of the state of California, the drought situation has greatly improved across much of the state. Having said that, there are still many problem areas which are scattered about various parts of California (as also detailed more in the graphic attached above which is courtesy of the forecasters over at the National Weather Service office located in San Diego, California). Attached below is a brief excerpt taken directly from the Facebook post as posted by the National Weather Service office located in San Diego, California. Be sure to read the information attached above to learn more about the latest on this ongoing drought situation impacting areas across the state of California.
"Thanks to a very wet January, California’s drought woes are improving. Since the start of the water year on 1 October 2016 over one-third of the state has been removed from drought by the U. S. Drought Monitor. California’s largest reservoir, the Sierra Snowpack, is looking very healthy right now thanks to January being the snowiest month on record for many locations in the Sierra Nevada including Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain. However, much of California is still in a drought due to dry conditions since 2012 leaving some places in Southern California with precipitation deficits of one to two years worth of rainfall."
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
California Drought, 5 Years Deep with Drastic Changes Between December 2015 and December 2016! (Credit: Meteorologist Jessica Olsen)
DISCUSSION: As 2016 quietly came to an end, we reflect on notable meteorological phenomenon that occurred throughout the year. Of recent observation has been some improvement in the drought monitor for the state of California.
We've attached two US Drought Monitor data sheets showcasing December 29th, 2015 and December 27th, 2016. The differences are quite staggering. California having spent the past 5 years in a significant drought have made conditions for residents challenging. From low-flow toilets, and shower heads to considerable increases in water prices, Californians are feeling the pull on their wallets, land, and agriculture. This goes without saying that reservoir levels have been dire in addition to increased tree death, greater unforeseen fire impacts and decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range.
Reviewing just monthly data we've extrapolated statements of drought intensity. December 29th, 2015 (2015) had clearly been more drought stricken than the month of December 27th, 2016 (2016). In 2015 for D4 classified drought intensity as Exceptional Drought, D4 qualified 44.84% of the California area, whereas 2016 D4 qualified 18.31% of the California area. A drop of nearly 41% in D4 drought intensity compared to that of a year ago.
Of note is author Brad Rippey of the US Department of Agriculture indicating;
"Despite heavy autumn and/or early-winter precipitation nearly region-wide, this season's snowpack remains below average in many California and Southwestern basins, owing to several "warm" storms that have produced more rain than snow. For example, California's Department of Water Resources noted that the average water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack stood at 6 inches, about 70% of the late-December average but less than one-quarter of the typical April 1 seasonal peak. Still, Western precipitation has been heavy enough in nearly all areas to warrant some improvement in recent weeks, and further improvement could be dictated if strong storms continue to occur and if the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service issues and optimistic Western water supply outlook in early January."
As winter has only begun, the National Drought Summary is seemingly more optimistic than traditional forecasts, yet January will remain a month for monitoring. As we anticipate a La Niña pattern it is suspected that precipitation may increase in Northern California while Southern California would experience decreased precipitation. This years' weak La Niña is following one of the strongest El Niño seasons on record, despite normal precipitation in Northern California and below-normal in Southern California.
~Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
DISCUSSION – California is experiencing one of the worst droughts it has seen in years. According to the USGS 2016 is proving to be in the 5th year of a severe drought, this coupled with the time period between June 2015-May 2016 being the 3rd warmest on record for the state.
Much to everyone’s surprise, people in the central California area, including the lower Bay area, and Monterey Peninsula are waking up to unseen precipitation.
By Saturday evening a frontal system had pulled into the area, causing widespread precipitation from the North into the Bay and lower Bay areas. As of 1000 UTC much of the frontal band has shifted southward into the Monterey Bay Peninsula, and as far north as Sacramento, into portions of Nevada. It is expected that this frontal boundary will stall and possibly shift northward as the day progresses, which may bring more precipitation to the San Francisco Bay area. This is all associated with a shortwave upper level trough dipping at 850mb but prominent near 250mb. This shortwave trough is seen at nearly 35,000 feet! All of which is indicative of decreases in temperature as the air becomes denser. As this air cools when it rises a trough can be seen, which at times may bring cooler, unsettled weather associated with precipitation. However, we should expect to see drier weather will come back into the area by Monday morning as a high pressure ridge is building over California into Sunday evening.
Given recent advancements in hydrologic science, more information regarding the California drought, including its impacts can be found at the USGS.
For additional discussions on weather stay tuned to the Global Weather and Climate Center for updates!
~Meteorologist Jessica Olsen