3-year drought not so bad for Sacramento River Basin

Records continue to fall with the growing drought in California. The state wrapping up its dry season and heading toward the rainy season, which typically starts in mid-October.

During the previous rainy season, the state was under a resilient ridge of high pressure. This weather pattern diverted the moisture tap north and south, leaving much of California dry through some of the wettest months. The weather pattern resulted in extremely low rainfall following two prior dry years. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) California-Nevada Climate Applications Program, 2011 to 2014 set a new three-year record low for accumulated rainfall in California.

The three-year period wasn't quite as catastrophic for the Sacramento River Basin. NOAA records show the basin had its worst drought conditions in 1977.

There has been constant discussion about how the developing El Nino pattern in the tropical Pacific waters might help alleviate the drought. The latest analysis shows a weak event for the Fall/Winter season. Unfortunately, this is not the news Californians were hoping to hear.

In years with strong El Nino events, Southern California has seen more benefit than the Northern California. Even so, it would take a strong El Nino event to come close to erasing the drought status in Southern California. A weak El Nino event may have little or no impact.

The greater indicator may end up being a few heavy storms that hit the state rather than a persistent rainy pattern. Most of California's annual precipitation comes from a few large storms. If those storms materialize and hit the state, there could be improvement in the growing drought concern.


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