El Nino Leaves Some Dry, Brings Back Runoff

Taylor Hillman Drought, Water, Weather

El Nino
Climatologists say El Nino conditions are calming down and the weather systems this winter have been unique, bringing some bad and good news.

Calming El Nino Conditions

Department of Water Resources State Climatologist Michael Anderson talked to the dairy industry about the status of El Nino, most of which may have passed already. “So the tropical sea surface temperatures did reach their peak anomaly in November and have since been cooling,” Anderson says. “Beginning mid-February, it started cooling much more rapidly. We expect a transition toward neutral conditions in the latter part of spring, and expectations are that we may transition to a La Nina condition by later in the fall and into winter.”

Anderson says water totals are pretty good in comparison to the last five years. However, this El Nino was unlike any other, leaving some parts of the state drier than expected. “We are near average for our precipitation and not quite average for our snowpack, a little below,” Anderson says. “Precipitation has been sporadic with some places getting a lot and others not. That’s a little unusual with our El Nino expectations. The south coastal regions have been dry; normally they are wet during El Nino, but the wettest areas have been up in the north coast.”

The good news is in the snowpack, even if it isn’t over 100 percent of normal. Anderson says any snowpack at all is a much welcomed sight after last year’s total. “Two years ago, we tied our worst snowpack in historical record with 25 percent,” Anderson said. “Follow that up with last year’s only five percent, which really there wasn’t any noticeable spring melt. This year being near 80 percent of average, there’s going to be a noticeable difference and there will be some runoff that will help with providing some water into the reservoirs and in the water system as we get into spring.”