2017 vs 2018 – A Weather Comparison

El Nino

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2017 vs 2018 – A Weather Comparison

In the middle of 2016, El Niño appeared to be a bust – in fact, we even wrote a blog about it which you can find here.  However, near the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 California saw a historical downpour of rain that has helped alleviate the drought. In this blog, we are going to recap 2017’s historical year in California and look ahead towards 2018 and see what lies in store for us weather wise.

2017 Recap

  • The “water year” for California technically runs from October 1 to September 30, and this past year was one of the most wet years on record.
  • Precipitation exceeded 100 inches in higher elevations like the Sierra Nevada Mountains and amounts around 25-50 inches at lower elevations.
  • Snowpack in the mountains has increased dramatically along with reservoir levels with Lake Shasta around 73% full at the beginning of October – 23% higher than usual at that time of the year.
  • The precipitation was the highest on record across the Northern Sierra Mountains and second highest on record in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • As you can see on the drought monitor, this year has been huge in terms of alleviating the drought with 0% of California suffering from severe drought conditions or worse, while this number was almost 60% a year ago.

2018 Forecast

  • La Niña is currently brewing in the Pacific Ocean and is expected to impact California weather.
  • La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, which we have spoken extensively about in the past which can be found here. La Niña typically brings cold and snowy conditions in the Pacific Northwest and drier weather in places like Southern California due to cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along the equator in the Pacific. This means that we will likely have a dry winter in Southern California, but it may not be a terrible winter for all of California as a whole.
  • With this being said, the future of California weather is still unclear. As for what exactly will happen this year, the federal government’s sharpest weather minds cannot predict whether La Niña will leave California with less rain, more rain, or the normal amount. Looks like we are just going to have to wait and see what happens, but if a dry winter does occur you know La Niña is to blame.
  • If low rain were to occur, parts of California could return to drought like conditions; however, the conditions would be much less severe than they were years ago.

What do you think will happen? Let us know your prediction in the comments.

Weather Trends – Forecasts and Predictions…

Every year we hear the weathermen predicting this much rainfall and forecasting weather, but a majority of the time they are completely off in their predictions. Last year was supposed to be the saving year, the year of El Niño, but it ended up being a bust. However, this year it seems like it is raining multiple times a week. In this blog, we will look back on last year’s bust weather and also discuss our recent weather and its implications going for the drought going forward.

Last Year’s Weather

Low Water LevelsEl Niño was a bust. The rare weather pattern was supposed to bring us more rain and possibly lift the pressure off this drought, but that failed to happen. El Niño did help Northern California rebuilding the snowpack, but California only received about 60% of its average rainfall last year. In fact, about 21% of California was categorized as in exception drought at the beginning of this year’s water year at the end of September. However, one benefit of this low rainfall is the result it has had on this year’s weather. The small El Niño has led to a larger La Niña this fall, which is basically El Niño’s opposite.

Rain Patterns

CA Drought Levels

December was the wettest month recorded in downtown Los Angeles since December 2010. The percent of exceptional drought area in California has dropped 3% over the past 3 months and 18% of California is actually no longer considered abnormally dry while this number was 0% 3 months ago. Rain is always expected during this time of the year, but this year we seem to be receiving more than before. This rain is happily welcomed by most as it is only lessening the pressure of the drought. Once again, the drought is nowhere near over but a heavy rain year is always helpful.

Mountain Snow

The end of 2016 saw a huge increase in snowfall that is continuing into 2017. Granted, this snow is expected with the higher rainfall but 2016 saw a 52% increase in snowfall from 2015. Mammoth mountain saw 109 inches of snow in 2013 while 2016 brought 354 inches. This increase in snow is obviously awesome for ski resorts and those of us that love to ski, but this is also great news to the drought. Northern California snow melts and runs off into local giving us more water. Of course, once again this trend needs to continue to make a significant impact on the drought but we always love to see rain and snow.

Everyone thought last year, El Niño, was going to be the year California received a ton of rain and saved us from the drought, but that clearly was not the case. This year has brought us the most rain we have seen in years and all we can do is hope it keeps coming. This weather sure is whacky, as we wrote about in our previous blog, but we do love to see snow and rain. With that being said, this drought will continue for some time to come and we must always make sure we are conserving water and being water efficient.

El Niño Won’t Solve the Drought – Saving Water Will

El Niño is upon us! Can’t you tell by the 3 extra days it rained this year?
El Niño? More like El Busto!

We’re in a drought. So it’s time all of us Southern Californians sucked it up and faced it: El Niño won’t solve the drought – saving water will. El Niño is a weather phenomenon which is caused by a warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean and causes massive rain showers across the west coast of North and South America. While rain and snowstorms did increase this year in California, it was nowhere near the realm of massive and it would have needed to rain 2.5-3 times as much to even begin ending the drought. Aquifers and rivers remain dry as farmers and residents continue to cope with various methods of saving water, and as Julian Emile-Geay, a paleoclimatologist at USC, said, El Niño was merely a “band-aid on a gaping wound.”

Now we must all face the facts and limit consumption if we ever want our children and grandchildren to see green grass again in California. Some call for desalination and various ways to recycle water, but money doesn’t grow on trees, people. And others are pointing fingers at farmers because about 40 percent of water consumption in California is used for agriculture. But for crying out loud: they’re farmers, what do you want them to do quit their jobs and stop feeding us? It’s time we all get the facts through our sun tanned faces and bleach-blonde hair – El Niño isn’t going to save the drought. El Niño may have brought us a few good waves over the year, but the less-than-spectacular rainfall means we’re going to have to suck it up and save. We have the best weather of any place in the country; I think we should all be able to be appreciative and give up some water here and there.

El What??? El Niño!

El Niño! It’s no surprise that we’re in a drought; however, many people are unaware of the upcoming event named El Niño. You may have heard of this phenomenon in movies like “Chasing Mavericks” because El Niño is known to cause massive waves, but El Niño is also likely to bring in a wave of much needed rain to the Southwest.

What causes El Niño?

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that is caused by the warming of tropical waters off the coasts of South America. This rarity occurs every 2-7 years as the trade winds weaken and even reverse causing warm water to flow eastward rather than the typical westward direction. This flow of warm water is very minimal and causes a temperature rise of only about 1 degree Fahrenheit along the equator, but the impacts of this temperature change are significant. The warmer water expands and causes sea level to rise anywhere from 6 to 13 inches, the colder water is unable to rise to the surface and wreaks havoc for fishing crops on the eastern coast of South America which rely on cold water, the jet stream drops further south due to low pressure and stronger storms causing larger waves right here in Southern California, and finally rainfall increases dramatically along the west coast of North and South America. In summary, El Niño is beneficial to us through the increase in rainfall and sizes of waves, but damaging to South America, as they are struck with severe storms, and Asia, as they suffer from harsh droughts.

So no more drought?

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Yes and no. El Niño means that we will likely be receiving a larger amount of rainfall, but this in no way means the drought is over. El Niño’s impact on rainfall is largely oscillatory meaning that it is never the same. Climatologists predict the upcoming El Niño will result in an increase in rainfall, but in truth they have little to no idea. This means that we could have anywhere from one to ten extra inches of rainfall which sounds nice but is not that beneficial in the long run. Thus, regardless of the upcoming El Niño’s effects, we will remain in a drought for years to come and the only way to solve this is through cutbacks on consumption. No single person can solve this drought – instead we have to work together and minimize water waste as a whole. I don’t know about you, but we here at Sunset sure are excited about the upcoming El Niño, but by no means does this mean that we are going home and taking 30 minute showers while we leave the sink running. During a drought every drop counts.