La Nina contributes to dry weather in Northern California

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The days are dry, the Sierra snowpack is thin and the forecast is unfavorable for a wet season in Northern California.

Welcome to La Nina.

“It might be best just to hope that we get somewhere close to normal,” said meteorologist Craig Shoemaker with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

Shoemaker said La Nina is a weather pattern in which a high-pressure system sets up off the West Coast, blocking many storms from entering Northern California. Instead, the storms head into the Pacific Northwest and Canada. 

The ones our region do get in a La Nina year often drop into Northern California from the north.

“They are colder storms and they can provide a larger snowpack to the Sierra,” Shoemaker explained. “So, it’s just a matter of we need to get a lot of those storm systems.”

Those storms typically do not provide much rain for the valley. That’s exactly what we saw in November.

Things can change but the Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook for December through February is not optimistic.

“If we were to get December and January both dry then that’s when it really becomes a problem,” Shoemaker said. “It’s very hard for us to catch up if we have both a December and a January that are dry because we’re running out of wet months at that point in time.”

“Our major reservoirs in Northern California are below average for this time of year,” said Molly White, an engineer with the Department of Water Resources.

The agency announced an initial 10% allocation Tuesday. That means water agencies that are part of the State Water Project may expect to receive 10% of the water they’ve requested for the 2021 water year based on current conditions and forecasts.

White said it’s not unusual to have a low initial allocation, and there will be updates throughout the season.

“We do them on a monthly basis. But we’d have to see this dry pattern shift to allow the wet storms to come into California to supply that additional rainfall and snowpack for spring replenishment of our water supply reservoirs,” White said.

The question that comes to mind: Are we staring into another drought?

“I would say it’s a bit premature at this point. But as all Californians, we can do our part to always use water wisely inside the home and outside of the home and our businesses,” White explained.

“This pattern is just not the best for getting those really big, wet atmospheric river systems,” Shoemaker said.

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