The California snow pack may be below the historical average, but there is still a lot of time remaining in the season for the El Niño weather pattern to bring more storm systems to the state. State Climatologist for the California Department of Water Resources Dr. Michael Anderson noted that there is currently a weak, to moderate El Niño system brewing in the eastern tropical Pacific.
“How that influences our weather patterns up here relates to the strength and behavior of the jet stream. So, the jet stream kind of flattens out and blows more east to west, the storms kind of pump through faster and depending on where the jet stream sits depends on where the precip falls,” said Dr. Anderson. “We’ve seen a couple storms have a more southerly track, leading to a distribution where we see wetter conditions in the San Joaquin, drying as we go north. That’s a fairly typical pattern during an El Niño year.”
Temperatures throughout California appear to be slightly above average according to Dr. Anderson, but the storm systems moving through the state are still cool enough to bring significant snowfall. “Our storms this year have been forming in the Gulf of Alaska, so they tend to be colder, they tend to have lower freezing elevations. We haven’t seen as many warm storms with the tropical connection and atmospheric river moisture coming through up north,” Dr. Anderson noted.