A welcome storm is expected to hit the West coast this upcoming week, bringing much needed rain and snow to drought-stricken California. The state is currently in the midst of a three-year drought and has seen its driest and probably warmest year on record. Some communities are on the brink of having no water left at all and farmers are hoping the weather pattern will soon change.
One storm is certainly not going to erase a three-year rainfall deficit, but it will certainly help as this storm system is expected to be the strongest to impact California in several years, possibly since March of 2012. According to forecasters, a strong area of low pressure will move over the West coast into early week bringing rain to the lower elevations and snow to the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The Sierra snowpack is a very important part of California’s water system because the snow that falls during the winter wet season melts gradually in the spring, filling the state’s extensive networks of reservoirs and provides drinking water to the state’s home and businesses. According to NOAA reports, 2013 was the state’s driest year on record and reservoirs are extremely low or even completely dry in some parts of the state. Some higher elevations of Yosemite Park could pick up two to three feet of snow with this storm system.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, slightly more than half of California is included in the “exceptional drought” category, which is the worst level of drought. Nearly the entire state is in at least some level of drought, as it has been for much of this year. Some small improvements may occur with this storm system, but it will take many more storms such as this one to put the state on the road to any sort of recovery, which could take several months of above average precipitation.
“We need above-average conditions sustained through the winter to alleviate the drought. We hope to see that transition as we get into winter,” California state climatologist Michael Anderson said in an email.
Some further improvement in the drought conditions is certainly possible into December as there are indications that this could be the start of some wetter weather for California. The latest outlook for December issued by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center called for higher than normal chances of above average precipitation across the entire state.