February 27, 2014

The West Coast Drought Lessens But Remains Serious in California

The snows of the past week have brought the snow pack in Washington State to near normal (see graphic), and substantial improvements have occurred in Oregon, although they are still dry.

But the big weather story of the next few days will be substantial precipitation hitting southern California, with the potential for slides and slope failures, particularly in locations that experienced wildfires last year.  Here is the WRF forecast from a sister prediction effort (CANSAC) for the 72 h period ending at 4 PM on Sunday. Some of the mountainous areas inland from Los Angeles may get 5-10 inches, with substantial totals in the central and southern Sierra Nevada.

 The UW WRF 12-km forecasts for the same period is consistent with 2-5 inches in the northern Sierra and moderate totals spreading as far north as central Oregon.

The heavy precipitation is now approaching California, as seen by the Vandenburg, CA radar:

This pulse of heavy precipitation is associated with an unusually intense low pressure center moving in from off the Pacific (see surface chart for 4 PM Friday). You don't see a 978 hPa low pressure center very often that far south in the eastern Pacific.

 Although substantial precipitation will fall, it will provide only modest relief from the severe drought over California (see graphic) and the latest forecasts suggest that focus of most storms will move northward next week.  Oregon has a real chance of moving up to near-normal snow pack before the next few weeks are over.


  1. Thats great and all... BUT ITS SNOWING ON ORCAS!

    WOO HOO!!!

  2. Hi Cliff,

    Been snowing moderately in Bellingham for last hour or so. Only about 1/2 inch or so, and not sticking to the roads...yet.

  3. Hi Cliff,
    It would be great to hear your take on the drought now after the weather event. One weather station reported that this went a long way towards drought relief! I find this hard to believe since most of what came down also ran off.....Jeb


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