Water Year 2016 Ends, California Suffered ‘Snow Drought’ Statewide water conservation vital for surviving uncertain climate future
California’s 2016 Water Year draws to a close tomorrow, ending a fifth consecutive year marked by meager precipitation that fell more often as rain than snow.
Record warm temperatures created an early and below-average runoff that was in large part absorbed by parched soil before ever reaching the State’s reservoirs.
The water content of the California Sierra snowpack, often referred to as ‘the State’s largest reservoir,’ flows each spring into a series of above ground storage reservoirs that essentially serve as California’s water savings accounts in order to meet the growing demands of an uncertain climate future.
These all-too -familiar dry, warming conditions have led State water officials to describe the situation as a California ‘snow drought.’
A ‘water year,’ a 12-month time period during which precipitation totals are measured, runs from October 1 to September 30 of the following year.
The year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends. Water Year 2016 is officially listed in the record books as ‘Dry’ statewide, even though parts of Northern California experienced average to slightly above average precipitation.
The forecast for Water Year 2017 is uncertain.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA
) Climate Prediction Center
currently sees slightly better than even odds that La Nina conditions will develop this fall and winter, though that does not necessarily mean there will be substantial rainfall, however.
refers to the periodic cooling of sea-surface temperatures across the east-central equatorial Pacific. It represents the cold phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation cycle, nature’s year-to-year variations in oceanic and atmospheric conditions. La Niña is the opposite phase of the warm, El Niño phase that California experienced this water year. There are no guarantees for substantial La Niña rainfall.
Water officials warn that making seasonal forecasts of precipitation – the ability to predict now if 2017 will be wet or dry (and how wet or dry) – is scientifically difficult,
and the accuracy of predictions is very low; much less than that of a seven-day weather forecast.
The California DWR report that may surprise northern California residents, Surprising because of a wet El Nino pattern last winter.
– Image: La Niña Impact on the Global Climate:In the U.S., winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast, and cooler than normal in the Northwest. Global climate La Niña impacts
tend to be opposite those of El Niño impacts
. In the tropics, ocean temperature variations in La Niña tend to be opposite those of El Niño.
The National Weather Service reports above-average rainfall in some communities, and close to average elsewhere:
- Monterey 119 percent
- Santa Cruz 104 percent
- Livermore 101 percent
- San Francisco 98 percent
- San Jose 94 percent
- Tahoe City 93 percent
- Santa Rosa 89 percent
- Napa 88 percent
- Oakland 87 percent
But Southern California missed out on the El Nino bounty, dragging down the statewide average.
- San Diego Airport 76 percent
- Big Bear Lake 73 percent
- Los Angeles, Airport 57 percent
- Palm Springs 54 percent
- Ojai 50 percent
- Los Angeles, Downtown 46 percent
- Long Beach 41 percent
- Santa Ana 38 percent
Sixty percent of the state remains in severe or extreme drought:
Historical records are the only source of facts to study for any indication of what California may see in the form of precipitation in coming months.
Of the 18 La Niña winters since 1950-51, 16 have provided below average precipitation for Southern California’s coastal region, and 15 winters have
resulted in below average precipitation for Southern California’s interior region.
Above average precipitation was recorded in 11 winters for the Northern Sierra and in eight years for the Central and Southern Sierra.
Water year 2011 brought the only significantly wet La Niña
event in this time period. Sixty percent of the state currently remains in severe or extreme drought.
While mandatory water restrictions today vary across California, making water conservation a California way of life remains a statewide goal and a top priority in
Furthermore, responding to climate change is vital to minimizing conditions that likely lead to more frequent, prolonged and severe droughts.
California has been dealing with the effects of drought for four years. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to
manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit California Drought Portal
. Every Californian should take steps to conserve water.
The State’s Drought Response – Legislative Analyst’s Office – California
California Department of Water Resources
NOAA Climate Prediction Center
California Drought Portal
National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)
El Niño and La Niña years (by month)
What is La Niña? | El Nino Theme Page – A comprehensive Resource
California’s Water Systems: Where does Calif
Save Our Water
Governor Signs Bill to Crack Down on Water-Guzzling Households
Ramona, CA Patch