February 16, 2024

California Enjoys the Northwest's Water

 Two years ago, media outlets were headlining strident messages that California had moved into a "megadrought" and that there was little hope for relief.

Story after story claimed that global warming had permanently changed the situation and that California's reservoirs would remain unfilled.

Fast forward two years and these apocalyptic warnings appear more like a rendition of chicken-little than reliable climate science.

Massive rainfall has hit the Golden State, while we in the Northwest are enjoying a warmer-than-normal winter with less snowpack than normal.

Below is the percent of average precipitation for the last month over the western U.S.  Some parts of California have received over 400% of normal!

To illustrate the soggy California situation, below is the accumulated precipitation at Los Angeles since October 1 (the current water year). Brown indicates normal values.   LA is now running about 40% above normal

Compare this to Seattle (below).  We are slightly above normal.   Precipitation-wise we running nearly exactly on climatology.   That may surprise some.

As I have described in several previous blogs, we are now experiencing El Nino conditions, which tend to make California very wet, while our area generally experiences near-normal precipitation.   

The latest forecast of accumulated precipitation through Tuesday shows a continuation of the pattern with heavy precipitation expected in California.  And yes....only modest precipitation over Washington.  Oregon enjoys a piece of this wet bounty.

The origin of this wet situation is a strong El Nino low center off of Califonia, illustrated by the upper level (500-hPa pressure, about 18,000 ft) at 10 PM on Monday.  The purple shading indicates an unusually strong low.  I am getting tired of this pattern.

The current extended prediction of accumulated precipitation through April 1 by the European Center model suggests this pattern is not going away, with very wet conditions over California, but drier than normal in the Washington Cascades (see below).

But what about the Northwest snowpack during the next few months?    I will leave that to an upcoming blog.


  1. Hey Cliff, in that last map (the EURO Precip anomaly map) why the dryness over the Sierra, with greater than normal precipitation on either side of the mountain range? That doesn't make sense to me.

  2. Here's hoping you can keep this sunshine going for the weekend... I have got a ski trip planned up at Baker.

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  4. That headline from NPR is hilarious.

  5. Being a Global Warming Alarmist means never having to say that you were wrong, incorrect or admit error in any way, shape or form. Just act as if whatever you said only yesterday never occurred, or just change the "facts" in order to serve your own narrative. It's not science and it's definitely not journalism - just Marxist ideology in action.

  6. Cliff, did you read the cited NPR article? Do you disagree that the mega-drought is the worst in over a twelve hundred years? The cited study says only 20% of the mega-drought is caused by climate change. Is not this close to some of your estimates? The author of the study warns that, yes there will be few years of heavy rains, but this will not change the long-term trend which means we must plan ahead. Do you disagree?

    1. The megadrought claims are very weak, including their use of proxies. Looking at historical records, California goes through wet and dry periods and the recent dry period was not very unusual. And, of course, a wet period followed. Climate models show little long-term trend in California precipitation.

  7. Very little snow at Baker! About 2 feet on the ground, while California continues to take our moisture... Cliff, I thought you said El Nino was dying... doesn't look like it to me.


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