California Drought Report #41 – Wet winter ahead?

This assessment is from the California Weather Blog at Stanford University:

Strongest California winter precipitation signal in years

It’s hard to imagine a more powerful predictive signal for California winter precipitation than the occurrence of a very strong El Niño event. Weak to moderate El Niño events can have highly variable effects in California, and are in most cases poor predictors of how much precipitation might fall in the Golden State. But the big events are a whole different ballgame—and the presence of a powerful El Niño in the tropical Pacific is the single most useful piece of information we have regarding what might take place in the months to come.

While even a record-strength El Niño in the tropical Pacific does not mean that California will experience record rains this winter—since there are always other factors at play—it does strongly shift the odds in favor of a wet winter. This not only fits with conceptual models regarding the atmospheric effects of El Niño, but is also strongly supported by model predictions. While the models do disagree upon the details, there is a very clear signal toward a classic “El Niño” winter dipole along the West Coast of North America, with much below-average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia and much above-average precipitation over essentially all of California from the Oregon border to Baja California.

My emphasis added.  All that said, the snow line will be higher than average, with all the warm water off the coast of California. In fact the warm “blob”of water off the coast could add moisture to the storms coming from the central pacific, producing damaging floods across the state. Too much rain and not enough snow.  Stay Tuned, it is going to be an interesting weather year. 

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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5 Responses to California Drought Report #41 – Wet winter ahead?

  1. Hifast says:

    Competing influences here. The NE Pacific warm blob contributes to high surface pressure and upper air ridging (blocking ridge), while the El Niño delivers moisture to North America. I don’t see significant El Niño-related rainfall until the blob moderates allowing the persistent ridge from breaking down and thus permitting Pacific storm systems to tap the El Niño moisture. I hope I am wrong…CA needs snowpack (Alaskan, not Tropical systems).


  2. Russ Steele says:

    Guessing what Mother Nature is going to do is hard for humans. We keep forgetting that we live in a chaotic world, we think the quiet pauses between the chaos is the real normal, but it is not, chaos is the normal.


  3. Sean says:

    Perhaps with the record low water levels in reservoirs the flooding could be less than expected, even if a lot of rain occurs. That also takes the pressure off the snow pack as supplemental water storage.


    • Russ Steele says:

      True! Lets see if CA water managers are smart enough to save the rain water.


      • sean2829 says:

        In a water catchment in Brisbane Australia they had the opposite problem. After several drought years they had gotten some decent rain and let the reservoir fill to over 80%. The a major tropical storm hit the area and they had no way to hold the extra water coming into the catchment system and Brisbane flooded. Had they started discharging a few days ahead of the storm, they could have avoided the flooding but they seemed to have forgotten the flood control role of the dams.


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