Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rain In California Will Just Scratch The Surface Of Drought

A few inches of rain will probably come down on California this week. That'll be snow in the mountains.
A NOAA precipitation forecast map for
the next week shows a few inches of rain
coming to drought-stricken California.  

So drought-stricken California can breathe easy, finally, right?

Um, totally wrong. The drought has gone on so long, and has caused such a water shortage, that this week's storminess will barely make a difference.

Right now, 94 percent of California is in severe to exceptional drought. That's really no better than it was in August. By now, there should have been some beneficial rains in California to put a dent in the drought, but so far, no. The autumn and winter rains are a little late.

So yes, California will take anything it can get, and any rain is better than none at all. Over the next week, rainfall totals will range from maybe an inch or two in parts of southern California to maybe three, four or even five up north.

An important part of California's water supply is snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. California can partly get by through the first year or so of a drought because melting snow in the Sierra can feed rivers, and thus water supplies.

But we're a few years into the drought now, so the Sierra Nevada isn't helping all that much. Snow pack last winter up there in the mountains was paltry, and melted far to early in the season in a warm spring.

California is actually by far having its warmest year on record, and that makes droughts worse anyway. Besides the lack of snow to melt, higher temperatures mean what little water there is can evaporate more quickly.
Almost all of California is still in severe drought, as
this U.S. Drought Monitor image from this
week shows. So one rainstorm due this week
won't solve the state's problems.  

Plus, demand for water among us humans goes up when it gets hotter.

Anyway, right now there is little snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There should be much more by now. This oncoming storm will add maybe a couple feet of snow in some high elevation areas.

The only downside to this storm is there might be periods of heavy rain Tuesday in southern California, which could result in local mudslides or floods in areas that had recent brush fires. 

If vegetation that normally holds the soil in place is burned away, the soil, duh! doesn't stay in place during downpours.

After this week, it looks like it will turn drier in much of California the following week, which is bad news.

The only way California can get out of its punishing drought is to have not just one wet week, like the upcoming one. They need every week to be wet now through March or April, when California's rainy season usually starts to wane.

Still, I bet you won't hear too many Californians complaining this week that their West Coast sunsets are obscured by rain clouds.

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