Despite spring rains, drought still continues

The Orange County Register’s Aaron Orlowski penned an interesting piece warning Californians that even though the state just experienced an above average rainy season, the drought is still lingering and we could see extremely dry conditions come fall. While this past El Nino helped fill Northern California reservoirs, it was by no means a drought buster, and conservation efforts are still required to make sure waterfowl have enough water on the ground.

The El Niño winter that forecasters said could drench the state with rain and snow veered north instead, striking mostly the Pacific Northwest. The amount of rain and snow that hit Northern California was a tick above average and looked impressive mostly because it contrasted sharply with the extreme drought of the previous four years. Southern California was wetter than in previous years, but not by much.

Now, conditions are shifting, and El Niño’s counterpart, La Niña – a seasonal period marked by lower Pacific temperatures that shrivel rainfall in California – is expected to arrive around early fall and could prolong the dry times in California.

“I would be concerned about the drought continuing,” said Dave Pierce, who does El Niño and La Niña forecasts at the Climate Research Division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

Another dry winter could hit at a time when the sources that provide Southern California with imported water – the Colorado River and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta region – face existential threats.

Scientists are blaming a stubborn high-pressure front off the Pacific Ocean pushing the wet water north, and the arrival of El Nino’s counterpart, El Nina, this fall could be even more trouble.

Now, conditions in the Pacific are cooling and shifting again. Forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center say the odds of a La Niña hitting this winter are about 75 percent.

That means more dry times and a potential revival of the high-pressure system that weather experts call the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.”

A La Niña year in Southern California is typically 25 percent drier than an average year, and La Niña has a similar effect on the Colorado River basin. In Northern California, the difference is just 15 percent, and further north the condition produces above-average rainfall.

Bottom line? Don’t start watering those lawns seven days a week just yet.

Full article here.