With just weeks left in California's rainy season, El Niño has distributed uneven relief to an arid state. As a result, regulators must consider lifting state water restrictions that took effect last April in some places and not in others, the Chronicle explains.
“February was incredibly warm and dry,” David Pierce, a researcher at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, recalled to the Atlantic earlier this month. “If you look at the curves of El Niño, February to April is when we see rainy years differentiate themselves. It’s already March. There’s another six weeks of wet season, then that’s all she wrote.”
Told to expect the precipitation equivalent of Godzilla, results have been less fearsome. As Pierce is right to note, February was dry, but we were once again informed by experts to not discount possible storms, a few of which did strike in March.
Now with March nearly gone, the biggest winner has been California's north, as David Rizzardo, chief of snow surveys and water-supply forecasting for the Department of Water Resources, told the Chron. "The north has really benefited from the winter pattern, but it’s been hit and miss down south... the impacts and the problems from drought still persist, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley and farther south. We’re still going to have impacts to farms, including fallowed fields and dry wells.”
The state's largest body of moisture providing a third of our water, the Sierra snowpack is at 87 percent of average at the moment according to a measure taken yesterday. Reservoirs to the north like Lake Shasta, which is
spilling over at 109 percent full 88 percent full, have been the beneficiaries of the season. More locally, San Francisco saw rainfall that was three percent above average.
Meanwhile, Southern California was left out to dry. Los Angeles, for example, received just half of its average rainfall this season.
So what happened? “The storm track was enhanced over the Pacific as anticipated, but it was farther north than anticipated,” climate researcher Daniel Swain at Stanford University. “Places other than California got our water, like Washington and Oregon.”
The State Water Resources Control will meet publicly next month to discuss the drastically different situations across the state. Regulations could be changed as soon as May.