Sunshine prevails as California looks to El Nino moisture


Californians have seen the best winter in five years, thanks to El Nino precipitation, but a recent dry spell has some concerned.

The state enjoyed sunny days during a 14-day dry streak between February 2 to the 17th, causing some to wonder if the days of drought are set to continue.

Experts have pointed out that even in the strongest El Ninos there have been dry spells that have lasted 17 to 22 days.

“People are saying wow, it seems unusual,” Craig Shoemaker, a meteorologist at the Sacramento office of the National Weather Service, told San Jose Mercury News. “But it is just typical of every winter we get. In El Nino winters, we don’t get more storms necessarily, but the storms have more moisture.”

California still has the possibility of receiving heavy rainfall in March, but even if the rain season ends in April with an average year’s worth of rainfall, drought restrictions are still expected to continue in the summer.

Southern California particularly is struggling as a high-pressure system over the Eureka area has been blocking most of the moisture and cooler temperatures from reaching that portion of the state.

The encouraging news is that this precipitation isn’t going to waste, as it has been replenishing reservoirs in Northern California. According to the eight-station Sierra Nevada index, which monitors the major reservoirs in Northern California, it was at 108 percent on Monday.

In order for the drought to be considered over, that percentage needs to be between 130 and 150 by April, while the snowpack needs to be at 150 percent of the historic average.

“There is still time to get some heavy storm systems,” Shoemaker said. “All it takes is a few to get the rainfall total really up. We can get 5 to 10 inches of rain in a few days over the mountains.”

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