Despite the recent moisture, and in some cases some record rainfall, the severe drought in California continues.
Parts of Northern California are seeing annual moisture totals less than 40 percent, while the Central Valley region is about 33 percent of normal. Most of our fruits and vegetables are grown in California’s Central Valley. There are concerns that crop losses will be huge and many farmers will go bankrupt because of the severe drought. This will undoubtedly lead to higher food prices at the grocery stores.
Conditions in Southern California and the Southwest are much worse. In Los Angeles, only 0.23 inches of rain has fallen since the beginning of 2014. In fact, January was completely dry in Southern California. Since July 1, the start of California’s rainy season, only 1.2 inches of rain has fallen compared to a normal of 9.54 inches.
Some additional moisture is expected across Northern and central California in the coming weeks. But, unless there is a huge change in the weather pattern that brings in copious amounts of moisture between now and the end of March, the fire season in California will likely be one of the worst in the state’s history.
The Golden State is not the only place experiencing dry conditions. Based on the Drought Index, there are 15 states in the Western U.S., including Idaho and Washington, that are experiencing some kind of dryness or drought from a huge high-pressure ridge situated over the Western U.S. since fall.
Conditions here in the Inland Northwest have improved since the new moon in late January. However, moisture totals are still below normal across much of Eastern Washington since Oct. 1. As of early Tuesday, about 22 inches of snow has fallen at the Spokane International Airport compared to a normal of 38 inches. Coeur d’Alene has reported slightly more than 40 inches of snowfall for the season.
It appears that we’ll see near-normal – possibly above-normal – moisture across the region over the next six weeks or so. I believe that we’ll see an early arrival of spring conditions by around the middle of March. Don’t be too surprised to see temperatures climbing into the mid- to upper 60s by sometime around the full moon March 16. Some stations have already hit 50 degrees from the milder weather pattern we had last week.
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