It was in 2016 that the state of California declared a four-year drought had finally come to an end. Now, in 2021, it could be entering another very dry season.
It is in the winter season that folks on the West Coast welcome dreary days packed with cloud and rain. California usually sees the most rain and snow in the month of February.
This year, however, was different: It was quite dry all of the winter season, and we can blame La Niña for this pattern.
According to NOAA:
"Based on climate analysis, we see that La Niña favors increased snowfall over the Northwest and northern Rockies, as well as in the upper Midwest Great Lakes region. Reduced snowfall is observed over parts of the central-southern Plains, Southwest, and mid-Atlantic."
This is indeed what has transpired this season. Thirty per cent of California's water supply comes from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges and only 57 per cent of normal precipitation has fallen this season. This, coupled with lower than average snowpack for 2020 as well, could spell trouble down the road when it comes to water supply.
THE OUTLOOK FOR SPRING AND SUMMER
A snow survey provided by the California Department of Water Resources on April 1st helps officials determine how much snow will melt and run off, and fill the reservoirs throughout the state, and so far, the mountains' snowpack was dismal this season – an average of only 16.5 inches (420 cm), which is 59 per cent of normal.
Beyond, the spring and early summer period is historically when the weather pattern becomes more quiet, and we see drier conditions. This year likely will not be an exception. Most of California's water comes from snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range that then melts and feeds rivers and tributaries.
THE DROUGHT THAT NEVER EASED
In the years 2012 to 2016 the state of California was in a four-year drought or 340 weeks of constant water supply shortages to locals. It started in December of 2011 and ended in March 2016. The winter of 2016 and 2017 brought above normal precipitation which caused extensive flooding in many areas but also filled up many reservoirs that year. The state of the 2021 current drought monitor is displayed below:
HOW THIS COULD IMPACT FIRE RISK
The 2020 wildfire season was a record-breaking and disastrous one. It took 31 lives, destroyed over 10,000 structures and burned a total over 4 million acres of land (1.6 million hectares). All this in a year that was dry, but was not in an official drought.
For the 2021 season, no one truly knows how it will unfold, yet. We can only hope we do not see a repeat of 2020. We can also hope that April brings some rainfall to the state to get a slight step forward against the yearly battle against drought.