Rainfall in a high fire-hazard area is precious. Since July 1, the beginning of the 2013-14 rain year, Idyllwild (at the Keenwild Fire Station in Mountain Center) has received about 5.2 inches of rain — 50 percent greater than normal through October. Pine Cove has received about 4.8 inches of rain and 2 inches of snow, according to amateur weather recorder George Tate.
Is this bountiful precipitation a harbinger of a weather year such as 2005, when 41 inches fell — nearly 60 percent greater than normal? Or will we slip into continuing dryness?
“As a statewide average in 2013, California has experienced the driest year on record in 119 years’ worth of data collection,” according to the Southern California Geographic Coordination Center’s “November 2013 Seasonal Outlook.” In early September, the State Department of Water Resources advised Californians that 2014 might be another dry year.
“Water year 2013 … began with above-average precipitation but then turned dry. …If 2014 is dry, its impacts are expected to be more widely felt due to reduced carry-over storage statewide,” according to a Sept. 5 DWR press release.
State reservoirs are well below normal and desired levels. The National Weather Service’s recently released November outlook forecasts the persistence of drought conditions throughout the state. Longer term, through January, NWS does not foresee the drought conditions relenting.
Cal Fire’s weather forecast for the four months through February 2014 predicts possible wetter weather within a couple of weeks resulting in a significant reduction of fire threat and activity by Thanksgiving.
Longer range, the NWS Climate Prediction Center sees neither a La Niña nor El Niño weather pattern developing this winter. Conditions favor neutrality, although some observations suggest “this fall is showing a strong predilection toward a La Niña-like pattern,” which would continue the dry pattern.
But during the La Niña weather pattern from the summer of 2010 through spring 2011, nearly 30 inches of rain fell in Idyllwild. That is 15 percent greater than normal and the most in any year since 2005, which was an El Niño year.
The National Interagency Fire Center’s Predictive Services winter prediction “is not conducive to significant precipitation. We are expecting below normal rainfall this autumn and winter.”