A year after record rainfall swamped Northern California, filling our reservoirs and ending the state’s crippling yearslong drought, this winter is proving quite lackluster for storm activity.
In Santa Rosa, just 5.98 inches of rain have fallen since the start of the year compared to 18.96 inches of rain last January, the wettest on record for the Santa Rosa Plain.
This January’s rainfall total just beat out the historical average for the month in Santa Rosa, 5.93 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
But overall, the winter has been much drier than climate watchers, water suppliers and many outdoor enthusiasts would want, said Steve Anderson, a forecaster with the weather service.
Since Oct. 1, only 12.96 inches of rain has fallen in Santa Rosa — 63 percent of normal — and statewide, snowpack is well below normal, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
A Jan. 29 summary of the Sierra Nevada snowpack showed it was just 30 percent of normal, and this week, the NWS Reno office reported record high temperatures across their coverage area, which includes Lake Tahoe.
The first week of February could be the warmest on record for the area, with daytime temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above average, forecasters said. And the dry conditions are expected to continue for at least the next 14 days, Anderson said.
“I am getting a little bit nervous,” Anderson said. “Our windows of opportunity are closing rapidly at this point. We have had some miracle Marches that have pretty much topped off our water year, but if we get below-normal rainfall in February, there’s no way to make that up in March at this point.”
He added that he hasn’t yet “heard any rumblings of the D word” — drought. The region’s largest two reservoirs, Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, remain at 93 percent capacity and 85 percent capacity.
And the U.S. Drought Monitor map for California shows only Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as the southeastern corner of the state in moderate drought. Most of the rest of central and southern counties are abnormally dry.
Forecasters say the trouble for the North Coast began with a nearly bone-dry December, when just 0.12 inches of rain fell in Santa Rosa, where the historic average is 6.19 inches for the month.
“Almost 6 inches below average is hard to make up for,” Anderson said.
The current unseasonably warm and dry weather is caused by a high-pressure ridge that’s settled over the West Coast, preventing Gulf of Alaska storms from pushing their way south. Across Sonoma County, temperatures are expected to spike through next week, with coastal areas reaching a high near 80 degrees this weekend.
“A lot of the climate researchers out there are calling this extreme weather — from extreme hot to extreme cold, from extreme wet to extreme dry — drastic changes from year to year ... We have had these patterns in the past, but we’ll be seeing more of them in the future,” Anderson said.
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or email@example.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.
Santa Rosa’s 10 Driest Januarys
2013-2014: 0.10 inches
2014-2015: 0.10 inches
1975-1976: 0.39 inches
1919-1920: 0.40 inches
2006-2007: 0.57 inches
2008-2009: 0.63 inches
1983-1984: 0.65 inches
1990-1991: 0.75 inches
1946-1947: 0.76 inches
2012-2013: 0.92 inches