California hits precipitation record as spring warming commences

Filed in Uncategorized by on April 16, 2017 2,564 Comments

Record wet in Northern California; huge snowpack threatens floods

Record wet conditions occurred across wide swath of interior West this winter, including parts of NorCal. (WRCC)

It’s official: the Northern Sierra “8-Station Index”–comprised of 8 precipitation observation sites in the northern half of the Sierra Nevada watershed–has eclipsed 1982-1983 to become the wettest Water Year (Oct-Sep) period on record! Even more remarkable is that this record has been set so early in the calendar year–even though May-September is the dry season in California, some additional precipitation in this region is all but inevitable in the coming months, which will push this record total even higher. Statewide precipitation metrics are not far behind. Precipitation in 2016-2017 is closely paralleling 1982-1983, and stands a good chance at breaking the long-standing record later this year.

All of this beneficial, drought-busting water, though, hasn’t been evenly distributed throughout the state. While Southern California has been wetter than average this winter, precipitation accumulations have not been nearly as anomalous as in the northern portion of the state (the Los Angeles basin, for example, is hovering just slightly above average for the Water Year to date).

The state of California is closely tracking its wettest Water Year on record–with more precipitation in the forecast. (CNAP)

The record wet conditions, however, have not been confined to California–a band of record or near record wetness extends from the northern coast of the San Francisco Bay Area inland across the Northern Sierra and then further across the interior West (as far east as western Wyoming and Montana!). This band of exceptional seasonal precipitation is the product of a persistently active and somewhat southerly storm track this winter, which brought frequent atmospheric rivers to the coast.
California snowpack is also extremely impressive this spring, though (as has been previously noted) it has for the most part lagged total precipitation due to the relative warmth that has co-occurred with this record wet Water Year. The tremendous amount of accumulated water in the high Sierra snowpack is just what the doctor ordered with respect to drought relief, but may pose some problems in the coming weeks if it melts too quickly. Growing concerns over major snowmelt flooding have already triggered pre-emptive disaster declarations, especially east of the crest along the Highway 395 corridor and in far western Nevada. It remains to be seen just how much flooding may result from melting of this snowpack–and it will largely depend on just how warm temperatures get over the next few weeks.

Precipitation, snowfall, and reservoir storage in California all well above average–but snowpack greatly lags overall precipitation. (CNAP)

 

Yet more precipitation next 3-4 days, but then major drying/warming trend

Additional precipitation is expected across northern and central California this week. (tropicaltidbits.com)

A couple more modest spring systems are expected to bring additional precipitation to Northern and Central California over the next few days. The southern third of California will likely stay mostly dry, with some showers possible as far south as Los Angeles County. A few more thunderstorms could rumble across the Central Valley, and some additional accumulating snowfall is likely at the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada. But by next weekend, there is multi-model ensemble agreement that conditions will dry out and warm up pretty rapidly as a strong ridge builds directly overhead. Temperatures could rise to 10-15+ degrees above mid-April averages by next week, which will likely accelerate snowmelt. It’s still to early to say whether there may be a subsequent pulse of snowmelt flooding downstream, but the upcoming warming trend certainly bears watching from that perspective.

Model ensembles have been strongly suggesting a spring heat wave is likely in the 5-10 day period. (tropicaltidbits.com)

 

 

El Niño may be back in the picture this year (yes, already)

The multi-model ensemble mean strongly suggests the development of El Nino conditions in the tropical Pacific by autumn. (CPC)

There are increasingly strong signs that El Niño may be making a comeback in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. With all the usual caveats (namely, that we’re still on the wrong side of the Spring Predictability Barrier), there is excellent multi-model agreement that a significant event may begin to unfold in the coming months. That would be pretty eyebrow-raising, since it has only been a year since the last big El Niño. It’s still far too early to discuss California implications, but if the current outlook holds then I would expect warm SSTs to begin having an influence as early as this coming summer. I’ll continue to follow developments in the tropical Pacific in coming blog posts. Stay tuned!

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  • Eastsider (Mammoth Lakes)
  • Fairweathercactus

    Low is trending more East. Not good for So Cal.

    • CHeden

      The CoL will likely be wobbling around quite a bit once it cuts off. I suspect there will be lots of run-to-run variability in the local forecasts as a result.

    • Freddy66

      Eeyore…..please stop it’s annoying.

  • inclinejj

    Drove over Donner Sumitt this morning. 56 degrees at 8 am. Waved and lifted my coffee cup to the Cap’n.

    Lots of melting snow and water flowing across I-80. Going to be a wild couple days!

    • Is there a probability that we could get stuck under a ridge even though forecasts for CA show the opposite? Or is this “6 wave” progressive?
      I saw the youtube you posted yesterday and places like Russia were under that oppressive ridge that drove temps over 100 degrees for what seemed like weeks.

      • Bombillo1

        And Pakistan flooded.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          Are you two talking about a recent event with heat in Russia and flooding in Pakistan or is this a forecast?

          • AlTahoe

            There are referring to the extreme blocking pattern a couple of years ago. Russia right now is having a pretty extreme arctic outbreak.

  • sezwhom

    Major pattern change on the horizon. After today, the “blocking pattern” will set up over Atlantic. Strong -NAO will lead to 6-Wave global Rossby with cool lows on East Coast and….and….CA! Check out 12z GFS run. We’re looking at rain next weekend with well below normal temps on 10 to 15 day outlook if this all holds true. Blocking patterns tend to last 2 to 3 weeks. Let’s get some!

    • Patrick from Stockton

      Yes! I love the 12Z today. the 00z and 06z looked pretty good too showing more activity after this initial cut off low goes through.

  • SoCal Al (El Monte-SGV)

    Hoping for a wet weekend after two months of nada! Rainfall totals this year compared to last year:

    March 2017: 0.21″ March 2016: 1.50″
    April 2017: 0.01″ April 2016: 0.39″
    May 2017: ???? May 2016: 1.08″

    • happ [Los Angeles]

      It is good to remind ourselves that it does rain in May; maybe not every year but most rain years.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        We have actually had some good storms in May here in Socal over the years with May 2015 being the most recent example here in Orange. Like you said, not every May brings rain, but wet Mays often occur during wet winters, but even drier winters can have measurable rain and even significant rain in May, like 1977 for example.

  • happ [Los Angeles]
    • thebigweasel

      So long as it holds off until the weekend, I’m fine with that. (Getting a new roof installed, so rain is of more than academic interest right now.)

      • Mike Stephenson (Riverside)

        You probably helped out with the rain chances! ?

        • Dan the Weatherman

          Sounds like Murphy’s Law at work if it verifies!

          • thebigweasel

            Well, going by that scientific theory, the roof is supposed to be finished late Thursday or early Friday, which means we may not see rain again for 50 years (the guarantee on the roof). In three years we may have all of Southern California to ourselves! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

      • Pfirman

        Hey, academic interests are why you are so smart.

    • Thirstier Nick (Santa Maria)

      Of course, we get somewhat shafted. On the flip side, there might be rain on the road trip.

  • Fairweathercactus

    Daily rainfall record for May downtown LA 2.02 (1977).

    • Dan the Weatherman

      May 2015 was pretty wet here in Orange, as I had over 1.5″ with a storm during the middle of the month. I don’t think L.A. got quite as much as parts of Orange County did, though.

  • Thunderstorm

    Bay breeze still a no show 93F right now. By far warmest this year. Last year warmest it got was 98F in September. SF bay area by Fremont.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      It is warmer in your area than it is here in inland Orange County right now, as it is in the upper 70’s to near 80 here in Orange.

      • Thunderstorm

        Looking at the entire state temperatures that are up to 1 hour behind real time. Over 10F at all bay area stations.

      • You’d trade rain in March and April for a mid 90’s day in Orange today?

        • sir fislow

          Don’t get ahead of yourself. Yes, rain is nice in the wet season. But right now LA is winning the more desirable weather, especially with next week’s cutoff low. ?

          • Pfirman

            Still just the more desirable prediction, unless you are growing early crops in the central valley.

  • mosedart (SF)

    Does the 12z really show an AR hitting northern CA in about a week?

    • Nathan

      One more for ol times sake

      • Chris

        It’s happened before in May.
        1.5-6″ of rain fell Memorial Day weekend 1990

  • cthenn

    Nice troll job Mother Nature…

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e2b01674e9b38f299c15d46aa7c91603a5a18a1a123fa49fa3d9ec06348b19c9.jpg

    I’m guessing I’ll get 0.05″ spread over the course of 48 consecutive hours starting Sat morning LOL.

    • Pfirman

      Nice droll post.

  • Snow depth May 3, 2011 and May 3, 2017 http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/
    More snow at lower elevations in 2011 yet more snow at higher elevations in 2017.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ba9200473a9233f92ee6e128143ec3de0581e17ba8f1d1ac61b1e967cc14e2af.jpg

    • Craig Matthews

      Nice chart comparo. Sonora pass to Tioga area sure looks deeper compared to 2011. The Walker is going to be ragin’ most of the summer.

      • Ebbetts may be last to open probably because once they clear the snow repairs are made.. I heard they were trying to get through 50ft drifts and having problems finding a road…not the road, A road.

        • TheNothing

          Ebbetts pass was a mother when I did the Death Ride back in 2011. I’ll never forget those windy steep curves.

  • davdorr

    95 degrees in South San Jose right now with a dew point of 60. 31% RH is higher than I would have expected. Guess that is due to it being May instead of August.

  • I’m recording 95 right now. Ugh!

    • 82/83 El Nino Baby (San Jose)

      97 on the east side at my house. 92 by Levi’s stadium.

  • mattzweck

    here in the high desert/Lancaster area. nice and warm little breezy but about 97 outside right now ugh. it was a little muggy too

  • Chris

    Anyone else notice the high surface dew points? Low 60s in some areas.
    I remember this happening in May-June in 2011. The NWS in Hanford said it was due to the wet ground vegetation that year (our grasses are still green!)

    • DelMarSD

      Interesting.

  • Bobby ( San Carlos)

    93 degrees currently, yesterday was 92, but the difference is today the dew points! This morning it was low 80s to high 70s and the dew point was 66 which is insane. If we had a shortwave or trough in our area at this time thunderstorms would be forming rapidly and possibly going severe. Just my take on this crazy record hot and surprisingly sticky weather. Also I spot an AR on the GFS!

  • Shane Ritter

    Is that an AR on the 18z? In mid may?

  • Oroville inflows under 20,000 CFS today.

  • Rainmaker (San Jose)
  • T’storm98 (Orcutt, CA)
    • SlashTurn (Santa Barbara)

      I went hiking up in the San Rafael wilderness off the 166 yesterday and it was getting really dry up there. This is much needed moisture…

      • T’storm98 (Orcutt, CA)

        I love rain and thunderstorms!

  • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

    Oh yes, NAM beginning to get a glimpse at this baby & to add, it’s also following the Euro’s consistent track. Very exciting if this holds… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cbef3624ef9bc260594cf05489158649f18c15ae7f00db629b7984d75ce312ce.gif

    • Bobby ( San Carlos)

      What does this exactly show and why is it so exciting? I’m an immature at understanding forecast models as you can tell

      • Relative humidity.

      • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

        You are looking at the 700mb layer in the atmosphere displaying the low cutting off near the north coast and dragging south. The rainbow colors stand for intensity in relative humidity, and the contour lines are heights in the 700mb layer.

      • annette johnson

        Amateur?!

    • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

      Look at the complexity in how this little low cuts off from the northern energy, regaining strength with quite clip of energy moving towards the south coast… Use Caution.

    • This is kinda cool. You get spun like Dorothy and Toto for a few days. 🙂
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/49b09cc3d0086d124ddd777d8fd2fcc632c9e9a52dc98090ad9faa849f2c24d6.gif

    • James Albert

      Is there any way to slow down the image so you can study it better? It moves too fast to really analyze the dynamics

      • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

        Sorry the photos I had to work with are large in size so the GIF requires a bit of speed in order to size it down for Disqus.

    • AlTahoe

      Wow look at that convergence over Tahoe right as it starts to pivot south. I think we might get a lot of thunder

  • Nate

    There are some buildups over the Sierra and Diablo Range at the moment, as seen from the Lick Webcam. Hopefully they’re a sign of things to come this weekend when we have some lift. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6a6fd35c156fc73c73ce259f8d98babfe0c84a0e836ba1334dcf6d2868062408.jpg

  • T’storm98 (Orcutt, CA)

    This is potentially going to be the third year in the with REAL rain in May.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      It could be the third year in a row in which rain falls at some point on my birthday, which is a rare feat in Socal in May!

  • 805 Weather (Camarillo)
    • T’storm98 (Orcutt, CA)

      The high sun angle definitely sparks convections

    • AlTahoe

      That cell was pretty much right over me when I went disc golfing after work. No thunder from it. You could see some hail streaks though

    • Pfirman

      Cool Sacramento view. I wonder where though.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      That looks like a summer monsoon pattern!

  • CHeden

    Long range precip totals continue to impress. Per the 18Z run of the GFS, the Feather River watershed now may see upwards of 6″ of liquid. Elsewhere in California, most totals have increased as well. ANNNND, should the LR verify, there would be even more activity with recurring LP remaining quasi-focused over the far NE Pacific with a near trans-Pacific jet riding eastward underneath.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65fcb60c1b7aa010d6407804aca0c188d7c5b7cee92e75d1e6cd43c2ea4aeed8.png

    • Awesome!

    • Pfirman

      Quasi is the new it-word, but only in a quasi sort of way, says I.

      • Charlie B

        Quite frankly, quasi makes me quite quesy.

    • Dan weather maniac

      This is definitely not showing up the east nay hills 10 day forecast yet, though temps dropping back into the 60’s are and thank the weather gods for that.

      Past 3 days were 90, 90, 95 for highs in central orinda at my house. Brutal. Much nicer this evening though at 70 currently with that onshore wind / ocean air feel returning. Hopefully fog or overcast returns in the am.

    • jstrahl

      Very interesting perspective, even more with the LR. Reminds me of May ”96.

    • Yolo Hoe

      Rag Dump get ready; party may not be over quite yet.

      One last Box of Rain?

    • SacWx

      00z a big step back. Still a lot to work out here.

  • inclinejj

    49,51 and 53 degree on the buoys off San Francisco Bay Area. Bring it was well into the mid 90’s in the East Bay and Sacramento the coast should be socked in with fog tomorrow am.

    • Pfirman

      Please check back in tomorrow am, heh.

    • Jason

      Around 6:30 pm, the fog started pouring into the Sunset and Richmond Districts of San Francisco. This was after a blistering morning where it reached the mid-80s in the eastern part of the city.

    • cabeza tormenta

      49 degrees off of the San Francisco shore? the ocean there hasn’t dipped to the 40s for many years if I’m recalling correctly. Swam (briefly) at the beach in Santa Cruz in 2007 when it was 48, eek.

    • Pfirman

      I can verify that was true yesterday here in Woodland.
      Edit to ask if you are socked in?

      • inclinejj

        I’m up at Tahoe but my mom said they were socked in with fog early this am.

    • Thor

      I went in to SF last night to see a concert (Willie Nelson/Fillmore) for one of my last forays to the City and it was fogalicious as we used to say. Complete with the fog horns just to give me a last taste. Reminded me of my 6yrs in the Presidio. It was 91f when I left San Rafael and 58f 15 miles later. By the time I went home, it was a fog blizzard on the GG bridge and in the headlands with very strong winds whipping the fog.

  • Beth_ElDoradoHills

    We are basking in the afterglow of increasening global rays. And guess what – we are at fault. Warm warm warm.

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      Global rays?

      • thlnk3r

        Perhaps he is referring to “Cosmic Rays”? “Global rays” might be the new millennial term ¯_(?)_/¯

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_ray

        • SoCalWXwatcher

          Not sure how cosmic rays would be our fault. I’d blame that on the weak solar cycle. Lack of strong solar wind allows more cosmic rays to reach Earth. I don’t think cosmic rays are good for you, but I’m not sure that’s what she meant. 🙂

          • thlnk3r

            This is actually a very accurate statement if anyone is wondering (jokes aside) 😉

        • PRCountyNative

          Makes perfect sense!

          “We are basking in the afterglow of (no such word) global rays (Infrared radiation count – I think so). And guess what – we are at fault (for something). Warm warm warm (yes it was a warm day).

          • SoCalWXwatcher

            So “Global Rays” would imply heat/infrared being radiated from the planet? which I would assume is a reference to the perceived effect of global warming?

            The caveat there is that global warming is in part due to the fact that the planet’s ability to radiate heat is being hindered because greenhouse gasses are trapping it here. ?

            I’m overanalyzing a well intentioned post, aint I?

          • Beth_ElDoradoHills

            We are trapping too many global rays bouncing around our atmosphere, greenhouses have illustrated this observation in the past.

  • Fairweathercactus

    I wonder when we will have another cold and dry winter like 2006-2007. That was a fun one the few times it did rain. More thunderstorms that Winter then I had this one.

    • Pfirman

      At least it was this century. Are you ever satisfied?

      • Fairweathercactus

        I like the cold! Sometimes this old cactus turns into an ice plant.

    • happ [Los Angeles]

      Yes winter/ spring 2006 was wet and cold followed by one of the hottest July in records; a summer of intense heat and humidity

      • SoCalWXwatcher

        June/July 2006 was about the hottest stretch I’ve seen for the LA area. I recall some coastal areas were hitting temps over 110 degrees.

        • Fairweathercactus

          I remember having several nights of lightning and thunder.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          It was very hot in late June and hot and muggy for much of July. I had a thunderstorm here in Orange toward the end of July that dropped about 1/3″ of rain and the lightning was nearly overhead with very loud thunder that set off the car alarm. July 2006 was much more interesting than most of the winter of 2006-07.

          • Mike Stephenson (Riverside)

            Since last summers monsoon was weak for socal, I’m thinking this summer will be a bit better!

    • thlnk3r

      Dry is an under statement for that Season 😉 I think we barely broke 3″ of rain.

      • SoCalWXwatcher

        I recall ’06/’07 season being record dry for many areas in SoCal. We did have a pretty significant cold snap during January ’07, but rain was scarce.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I hope not anytime soon! I hated that winter despite having that major cold snap. Why is that we can’t have a cold snap like that with a wetter season altogether?

  • Bartshe

    some minor convection this afternoon over the higher elevations, preamble to a bigger tomorrow? : https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4250d403380a1e3ea559dc767f3a3145ec441c1be52f1ebb44bced5fccb19820.jpg

    • PRCountyNative

      Gorgeous picture!

    • Bombillo1

      Convective clouds with snow, spectacular and uncommon I am thinking. Snow usually gone by the time this happens.

  • Midwester

    Completely random- I moved to Sacramento in late 2000s and remember 2010-11 winter the Tule fog was impressive for most of Dec and Jan. This year despite rather similar conditions it seemed occasionally present but not impressive in Sacramento region. Maybe just my recollections are off, but if true any thoughts on why?

    • Jason Jackson Willamette

      I was going to write something, but then thought :

      Professor CHeden should step to the black board and take us through this as only he can.

    • Chris

      Not enough stagnate days. Tule fog doesn’t form when storms mix up the atmosphere

      • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

        Yes, 2010-11 saw breaks in the weather even with those bigger, colder systems compared to this Dec-Jan where warmer temperature gradients were present due to the heathy subtropics taps.

    • Bob G (Gustine)

      Tule fog has been on the decline in the valley over the past years. It isn’t like it used to be. I remember being socked in for days in the 70s and 80s. I think the warmer days have something to do with it.

      • inclinejj

        I also remember the really cold days with Tule Fog barely above freezing.

        • Bob G (Gustine)

          There was a discussion about it and its effects on fruit production the valley. The tule fog and its moisture aided in the accumulation of chill hours. I don’t know the details of how it helps, but the tule fog and its moisture are a big help. The last few years I’ve seen very few days of tule fog.

  • Rusty Rails

    The Merced crested over 11′ at Pohono earlier this morning. That’s full trail inundation near Swinging Bridge and likely nearing the bottom of same. How high can it go before the cool off this weekend? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/09953896adeb2ea2e032706d9b7d9948009cd749cee57e4eecfc9315aa89b0f0.png

    • Bob G (Gustine)

      Haven’t noticed a spike in the river downstream yet.

    • Crest is 11.8 per NWS then it cools down.

  • Beth_ElDoradoHills

    Ocean sharks and shrimps in the Amazon from sea levels being on the land? Perhaps this is in our NEAR future. Scary.

    https://phys.org/news/2017-05-earth-sank-eastern-amazon-team.html

  • mattzweck

    here in the high desert/Lancaster 9:50 am and already about 83 out. and and a little icky out.

  • Here’s another view of snow depth between 2011 and 2017 Rivers should be running pretty well for most of summer I guess. Most all areas are melting of course except for the highest elevations in Southern Sierra and west of Mono.
    https://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd8f90efd165fd621189de11d1db94bc667d6ac8116200ba35517d8a78d8e9c9.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c9f2d39ed9b7c3733e04d7f13facfc5c50352b652589f555dddd75b7080db7c3.jpg

    • Bob G (Gustine)

      Interesting, I really haven’t noticed anything downstream on the Merced and SJ rivers. The rivers have been slowly receding the past few weeks.

      • Millerton was drained down pretty low recently they are expecting a lot of runoff and want to keep things as even keel as possible. I’m sure the smelt don’t care. They’re very happy in the Yolo Bypass.
        edit and there’s a lot of storage in McClure, too.

        • Bob G (Gustine)

          Haven’t checked storage levels recently. I know they have been releasing water for quite some time. Too bad we don’t have a place to store all that water

          • happ [Los Angeles]

            This is perfect to have a cold ULL slow down the melting; maybe a cooler/ wetter pattern off and on will help regulate snow melt

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      I’m guessing vacationers who visit Yosemite to view the falls will be quite pleased this summer.

      • Yosemite Falls should be flowing through summer and fall. Not wet rock face but real water 🙂

        • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

          Yep!

    • Yolo Hoe

      Wow, those are really cool images. And snow line gradient is interesting. Thanks for posting.

      • Thanks but I realized that I used April 2017 instead of May 2017. worth a repost today after the big melt

  • 82/83 El Nino Baby (San Jose)

    Anyone know what the Euro is showing for the next week and a half? The latest GFS runs look more and more dry except for far eastern CA and parts of SoCal.

    • happ [Los Angeles]

      I like the idea of moisture down here

      • 82/83 El Nino Baby (San Jose)

        Me too. I was hoping for what the gfs showed yesterday which was a more statewide event. So we all win.

    • Patrick from Stockton

      Yeah, I agree. I think most central valley locations are going to get a nice cool down from this but not much more. Believe me, I will take the cool down 🙂 I am starting to water my lawn tonight for the first time this year.

  • Nathan
    • happ [Los Angeles]

      Nice, is that Orange county?

      • Nathan

        SD/La Jolla

  • Chris

    Beautiful day on the lake today.
    Looking southwest from Incline Village https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/980ac61e77e3e83ed4921e2f33ab9ea43f31d0c5ab622acc90fbb123cb27356b.jpg

    • happ [Los Angeles]

      Yes indeed

    • rob b-Truckee/East Bay

      Very jealous of that lake view! I like how the pine tree has been trimmed up to maximize the view!

      • inclinejj

        Years ago people would just cut down the trees and pay the fine. Now they caught on and fine heavily for cutting without a permit.

      • Pfirman

        Sure, chimney brush makes for a fine looking tree all right.

  • mattzweck

    here in the high desert / Lancaster area where live my weather station reading over 100 out right now some convection not much. little breezy.

    • happ [Los Angeles]

      Hot, is today the first 100 degree temp?

      • mattzweck

        about the same yesterday. just feel more intense today.

  • Bobby ( San Carlos)

    For all you people who don’t know, THERE’S A NEW POST