edatoakrun
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Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:08 am

I live in North California, so the local news is of the most interest to me, but the (official here in CA, as of this AM) drought is covering a far larger region.

For the overall picture, the California Weather Blog entry of six days ago is a good place to start:

http://www.weatherwest.com/

Great map at that link shows the only region in CA with "normal" precipitation is the Southeast region, where ~"none" is the norm.

Just how bad is the current drought situation in California?


...Not only was 2013 the driest calendar year on record in California, but in some places 2013 eclipsed previous record minimum precipitation values by around 50%. Nearly the entire state is currently experiencing dryness that hasn’t been experienced in living memory, and across the most populated parts of California the ongoing drought is more severe than any previous event in well over a century. We are currently supposed to be at the peak of the rainy season in California, and each day that passes without meaningful precipitation is another day when our long-term deficits grow measurably larger. The first annual Sierra snow survey on January 7th brought no surprises: snow water equivalent on that date was only 20% of normal overall, and considerably less than that in the north where much of the reservoir capacity resides. Over the past few days, negative snow anomalies have continued to increase, and preliminary data suggest that (as of 1-10-2014) Sierra snow water equivalent may be at its lowest level ever recorded for the date. This suggests that the dryness of the 2013-2014 water year so far is similar to (or worse than) that experienced during the 1976-1977 water season. This assertion is also supported by looking at the Northern Sierra 8-Station Index, which is considered a representative metric of precipitation across this hydrologically critical region. Considering the extreme dryness of the second half of water year 2012-2013, it’s no wonder that that 2013 smashed so many all-time low precipitation records in California.

Reservoir levels in California have been falling rapidly since summer 2013, but these extremely low water levels are finally making headlines as some water districts are already facing difficult choices and the potential for severe water usage restrictions. Folsom Lake has become something of an icon of the ongoing drought in California as its water level has dropped precipitously to one of its lowest levels in history (see photograph near the top of the post, courtesy of Adam Flint), imminently threatening the water supply for suburban Sacramento. Numerous other smaller water districts, from the Central Coast up through Mendocino County, are facing or will soon face similar conditions. A wider water crisis is still a little way down the road, but if California does not receive widespread and very substantial precipitation over the next two months, many communities (especially in the northern and central parts of the state) stand to face water shortages of a magnitude previously unseen in the modern era...


And while there are a few months of rainy season left, not many optimistic long-term forecasts to be found.


California drought: Three more months of dry weather likely, National Weather Service announces


In a new dose of bad news for a state growing increasingly concerned about lack of rain, California's historically dry weather is expected to last for at least another three months, federal scientists said Thursday.

The dire forecast for the rest of the state's winter rain season came as federal officials classified much of California as being in "extreme drought." And the Obama administration declared 27 California counties, including most of the Bay Area, as "natural disaster areas," eligible for emergency federal loans for farmers.

Computer models based on data from satellites, buoys in the Pacific Ocean and other sources favor below-normal levels of rainfall for California, much of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas until April, according to a new report from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.

"There will be a few precipitation events, but we're looking at drier-than-normal conditions in February, March and April," said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist with the agency, which is based in College Park, Md. "Right now we are saying the odds do not indicate a Miracle March, which is not a good thing."...


http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_2 ... her-likely
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Weatherman
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:09 pm

I lived in Southern California in the 70s, and in the Tahoe area in the late 80s and early 90s. Both were drought periods. California goes through these dry spells on a fairly regular basis.

Actually, from a purely meteorological standpoint, it's surprising that California gets any rain at all. It takes a very special setup of the atmosphere to get the air to rise, clouds to form, and rain to fall over the state. Most of the time, the air is warm, stable and dry with a thin, marine layer near the cold ocean.
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Stoaty
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:37 pm

Weatherman wrote:I lived in Southern California in the 70s, and in the Tahoe area in the late 80s and early 90s. Both were drought periods. California goes through these dry spells on a fairly regular basis.

Not to this extent. I have lived in Southern California all my life. We are in record territory. Most likely we are experiencing the early effects of climate change:

"The mountain snowpack provides as much as a third of California's water supply by accumulating snow during our wet winters and releasing it slowly when we need it during our dry springs and summers. Warmer temperatures will cause what snow we do get to melt faster and earlier, making it more difficult to store and use. By 2050, scientists project a loss of at least 25 percent of the Sierra snowpack. This loss of snowpack means less water will be available for Californians to use."

http://www.water.ca.gov/climatechange/
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:41 pm

thanks, Stoaty.
I read that snowpack is 20% of normal.
not 20% off, but 20% of normal.
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Stoaty
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:45 pm

thankyouOB wrote:thanks, Stoaty.
I read that snowpack is 20% of normal.
not 20% off, but 20% of normal.

To be precise, snowpack is 17% of normal to date using statewide figures:

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/snowapp/sweq.action
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:50 pm

There have been periods in the past when areas have been for decades. Sometime back even a Time cover story talked about it. End of great civilizations like Indus valley and Maya might have happened because of such dry decades.
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 1:56 pm

Stoaty wrote:We are in record territory. Most likely we are experiencing the early effects of climate change:


It can seem that way, but rainfall and snowfall records, extending all the way back to the 1800s don't support a clear trend toward drier conditions, yet. Warmer? Definitely in the past few years, but not drier.

It doesn't take too many storms to fill the reservoirs, and since California, normally, gets only a few significant storms even during their wet season, that's a good thing.

I really didn't appreciate how dry it is, and how rare rain is, in California until I moved back east. It seems like all it takes is for someone to sneeze and it rains down here in South Florida.
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smkettner
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:03 pm

CA seems to be in a perpetual drought since at least the 1970s. Occasionally we have abundance but even that has been a while.
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edatoakrun
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:14 pm

Weatherman wrote:...I really didn't appreciate how dry it is, and how rare rain is, in California until I moved back east. It seems like all it takes is for someone to sneeze and it rains down here in South Florida.


Actually, parts of North California get precipitation amounts comparable to South Florida.

~ 64 inches a year on average, here in the western foothills of Shasta County.

The massive human populations living in Central and Southern CA are sustained by water imports.

Click the link for a more readable format of the data below, showing precipitation deficits to date.

I notice that Redding CA since 7/1/13 has received ~ 3.5 inches, the normal rainfall for Palm springs...

BTW, it was ~80 F in Redding the last few days, breaking all-time records.



http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/awipsProducts/RNOWRKCLI.php
SINCE JUL 01- JUL 01- JUL 01- JUL 01-
MIDNITE JAN 16 JAN 16 JAN 16 JUN 30
CLIMATE STATION TOTAL 2014 PON 2013 PON NORMAL NORMAL
------------------------- ------- ------------ ------------ ------- -------

...NORTHERN CALIFORNIA...

CRESCENT CITY 0.00 10.13 30 34.86 104 33.40 64.03
EUREKA 0.00 5.85 28 21.96 107 20.59 40.33
UKIAH 0.00 2.10 11 23.51 123 19.08 37.35
REDDING 0.00 3.58 21 19.29 114 16.95 34.62
SACRAMENTO EXEC AIRPORT 0.00 1.90 22 12.07 142 8.51 18.52
SACRAMENTO - CSUS 0.00 1.75 19 M M 9.44 20.27
SANTA ROSA 0.00 2.10 11 22.87 123 18.59 36.28
SAN FRANCISCO 0.00 2.11 18 13.45 117 11.46 23.65
SFO INT'L AIRPORT 0.00 1.50 15 11.10 113 9.81 20.65
OAKLAND AIRPORT 0.00 2.08 20 11.16 107 10.39 20.81
LIVERMORE 0.00 2.38 31 8.62 112 7.72 15.71
MOUNTAIN VIEW - MOFFETT 0.00 1.28 19 7.93 120 6.60 14.68
SAN JOSE 0.00 1.57 23 7.43 111 6.72 14.90

...CENTRAL CALIFORNIA...

STOCKTON 0.00 1.71 27 8.30 129 6.43 14.06
MODESTO 0.00 1.49 26 7.01 123 5.68 13.11
MERCED 0.00 1.01 18 5.73 105 5.47 12.50
MADERA 0.00 0.97 17 5.74 103 5.59 12.02
FRESNO 0.00 0.73 15 3.89 81 4.83 11.50
HANFORD 0.00 0.39 8 2.16 45 4.75 10.10
BAKERSFIELD 0.00 1.07 40 1.03 38 2.68 6.47
SALINAS 0.00 0.95 17 7.59 140 5.43 12.83
PASO ROBLES 0.00 0.46 8 3.64 67 5.43 12.78
SANTA MARIA 0.00 0.50 9 4.16 74 5.64 13.95

...SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA...

SANDBERG 0.00 0.78 15 1.58 29 5.37 12.33
PALMDALE 0.00 2.07 53 0.30 8 3.94 8.30
LANCASTER 0.00 1.61 50 0.16 5 3.25 7.38
SANTA BARBARA 0.00 1.36 18 6.41 84 7.62 17.76
CAMARILLO 0.00 0.82 13 2.72 42 6.43 15.22
BURBANK - BOB HOPE 0.00 0.43 7 2.86 44 6.55 17.31
LAX INT'L AIRPORT 0.00 1.04 19 4.48 82 5.45 12.82
LOS ANGELES / USC 0.00 0.97 16 3.37 56 5.97 14.93
LONG BEACH 0.00 1.31 25 3.86 74 5.21 12.26
FULLERTON 0.00 1.31 22 3.35 56 5.96 13.88
IRVINE - JOHN WAYNE 0.00 1.05 17 3.14 50 6.24 13.33
OCEANSIDE 0.00 1.60 26 4.21 69 6.08 13.66
RAMONA 0.00 2.76 41 3.87 58 6.69 16.04
SAN DIEGO - LINDBERGH 0.00 2.24 51 3.38 78 4.35 10.34
ONTARIO 0.00 0.92 14 2.86 43 6.66 15.04
RIVERSIDE 0.00 1.15 23 1.94 38 5.04 12.40
PALM SPRINGS 0.00 1.26 36 1.22 35 3.48 5.74
THERMAL 0.00 1.47 84 2.18 125 1.74 3.20
CAMPO 0.00 4.19 59 4.79 67 7.15 15.73

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PON IS THE PERCENT OF NORMAL FOR THE PERIOD
NORMALS ARE 1981-2010 AVERAGES
TRACE AMOUNTS ARE LISTED AS 'T'
MISSING DATA ARE LISTED AS 'M'
LOCATIONS WITH A 0.00 INCH NORMAL-TO-DATE WILL SHOW A 'N/A' FOR PON
PREVIOUS YEAR DATA IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE SACRAMENTO - CSUS LOCATION

VISIT US ON THE WEB AT HTTP://WWW.CNRFC.NOAA.GOV/INDEX.PHP
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smkettner
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Re: Western USA drought worst in modern era

Fri Jan 17, 2014 2:53 pm

Drought was probably worse and came on quickly before the many water projects were in place.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/17/after-the-noachian-floods-in-1861-california-experienced-a-punishing-drought/

Lots of land owners went bust as livestock was decimated.
CA has a long history of drought.
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