The recent flurry of rain and snowstorms have not yet made a significant addition to the Hill’s water supply. Consequently, the drought is expected to enter its fourth-consecutive year. But the month of February did bring a milestone — the warmest February recorded.
According to the National Weather Service, Idyllwild’s average temperature in February was 50.7 degrees, which is 8.1 degrees above the normal. Statewide, only Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, whose variance from normal was 8.4 degrees, had a greater monthly average difference.
Indio and Palm Springs averaged about 68 degrees, which was about 7 degrees above normal. San Diego’s average temperature of 63.1 was only .4 degrees below its record February temperature of 63.5 degrees.
While the recent precipitation will eventually benefit the Hill’s wells as the water and snow melt percolate into the ground, statewide water and snow quantities are significantly below average and approaching record bad news.
“The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which Californians rely on heavily during the dry summer months for their water needs, continues to disappoint this winter. Despite the snowfall … it was not enough to offset weeks with no snow at all,” according to the state Department of Water Resources’ press release last week.
During the March snow survey, the water equivalent of the statewide snowpack was calculated to be 19 percent of the multi-decade average for the beginning of March. In late December and January, the water percentages were 50 and 25 percent, respectively, of normal for those periods.
Based on these data, DWR has already capitulated to a continuation of the current drought. “California’s historically wettest winter months have already passed, and it’s now almost certain that California will be in drought throughout 2015 for the fourth consecutive year,” it said.
“Unless this month approximates the 1991 ‘Miracle March’ with significantly more precipitation than normal, the traditional wet season will end on April 1 with an alarmingly low amount of water stored in the mountains as snow,” it concluded.
Long-term outlooks from NWS offer little hope. Neither the two-week nor three-month forecasts predict an above-normal chance of rain for Southern California.
While the forecast for an El Niño pattern developing this spring remains between 50 and 60 percent, NWS said in it latest El Niño report, “… model forecast skill tends to be lower during the Northern Hemisphere spring, which contributes to progressively lower probabilities of El Niño through the year.”