Wet Winter — Drought Buster?

December 18, 2015

1371724873_Rain_brad-sharpOvercast and a period of rain-relief this early Friday afternoon on California’s north coast, as the becoming-usual atmospheric river continues to drench the region.
According to the NWS, we could get four-to-six inches of rain in another storm front expected to glide through here staring this afternoon, maybe eight inches in the northeast corner of Humboldt County. Rained hard-and-heavy earlier today, but quietened down after sunrise.
Good-detailed report on our weather situation via Lost Coast Outpost this morning, as the season continues in earnest.

As in current weather, the fabled El Niño could be all wet this year — Duane Waliser with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab on new data released this week (via Capital Public Radio): ‘“We might not get more atmospheric rivers, but any given river would be stronger in terms of precipitation,” says Waliser. Waliser says California will also likely see less snowfall and more flooding.’

(Illustration: ‘Rain,’ by Brad Sharp, found here).

Any water is good toward getting a handle on our drought, but what’s really required is snow to fall in northern California, and yet this year, accordingly, more rain that snow.
An interesting look how this season differs, especially with that El Niño floating around, could be found yesterday at Discovery, and the wetness of the year:

California receives about 40 percent of its rainfall every year from about 10 concentrated bands, according to a newly released historical study of atmospheric rivers, which spawn the storms.

El Nino — a naturally recurring weather phenomenon that is a triggered by warming sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean — doesn’t impact the number of storms, but can increase their intensity, said Duane Waliser, chief scientist of the Earth Science and Technology directorate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Two of California’s wettest years in 1982-1983 and 1997-98, occurred during El Nino events, but so did the state’s two driest years, said research meteorologist Martin Hoerling, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.
The question is whether this year’s El Nino, which is shaping up to be the strongest in 18 years, will be a drought-buster, Hoerling said said at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
California has been in a drought since 2011, the driest four consecutive years on record since 1895, Hoerling said.
That has left the state with a one-year water deficit.

“With the drought, the ground situation is going to be not very conducive for infiltration,” Hoerling said.
“It’s simplistic to talk about drought-busters as being just about rain. There’s a water-resource challenge in the state that goes beyond just having a very wet, dousing rain this year,” he told Discovery News.
For the eastern part of the United States, El Ninos can bring warmer-than-normal temperatures, some 4- to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than usual, said James Randerson, an Earth system scientist at the University of California at Irvine.
“The lack of cold air is a symptom of El Nino,” he said.

Hence, the wet of rain, not snow…

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