Drought and fire danger ahead

While the 2017 winter La Niña was much wetter than expected, the National Weather Service expects the 2018 version to be significantly drier than normal.

This fall has been one of the warmest and driest on record, according to Alex Tardy, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s San Diego Office.

And the next two weeks may be the exception to the anticipated dry winter ahead.

Northern California should experience substantial rain this weekend and next week. So, it is possible that the storm track will slip to the south and this region will receive some refreshing rain.

The NWS Climate Prediction Center forecasts the probability of rain as well above normal in Southern California for the next two weeks.

However, its longer-term forecasts — one month and three months — show below-normal precipitation.

A return of the dreaded drought is a possible consequence of the dry and warm winter, according to Tardy.

“The start of the season mimicked last year, but the past month has seen no rain,” Tardy said. “The snow pack is below normal in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Southern California temperatures have been quite staggering. They’ve been several degrees above normal.”

The dry fall and beginning of winter have raised concerns with regional fire agencies, too.

On Dec 29, the Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center issued an advisory for firefighters effective the next two weeks.

“With the absence of any significant precipitation this fall, fuels have become critically dry across portions of Southern and Central California … Dead fuels away from the coast are near all-time record dry levels. The 100-hour dead fuel moisture is normally in the mid-teens, but values in the single digits have been observed across the Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland, Los Padres, and Sequoia national forests.”

While Tardy offers some hope that next week’s storm may slide south, “The rest of the winter is not looking good,” he concluded.