The latest U.S. winter outlook spells trouble for dry California. Temperatures in the desert state could drop below freezing and the risk of wildfires that spread deadly forest blazes is high there.
California is the epicenter of the West’s water woes. The drought affects agriculture, homes, businesses and, most crucially, wildlife.
The outlook for snowfall in the Sierra Nevada snowpack is bleak—a good sign for the growing fires in the dry southern part of the state.
But below the snow line the drought conditions are getting steadily worse. One more-than-desirable sign will send water vapor farther north, so that the moisture can soak into the air over eastern and northern California.
The outlook for the Sierra snowpack:
The Sierra snowpack is going to be a challenge not just for northern California but for the Southwest.
For all the talk of record-setting precipitation in the middle of the country—at this point, a lot of it in the Rockies and southern Colorado—snowpack across much of the West is a mere pittance.
There’s very little water in the mountains to soak up the rainwater that falls over the Rockies—and that’s even ignoring the high altitude and snowpack conditions, all of which are part of the challenge.
The snow pack itself, if it’s even there, is very thin, and in many areas the snow has gone.
In Washington and Oregon, the snowpack is mostly gone; there are long, dry periods. The snowpack in northern California is at or very near its lowest.
And there’s not a lot of water above 3,000 feet. In the mountain snowpack areas it means that in order to get runoff, the snow has to melt. That adds even more water to the rivers.
That’s creating a much bigger challenge to the snowpack, as rivers like the one that crosses the Sierra Nevada spill water into the Pacific Ocean—and then, as the storms bring water to the Pacific, the water is replaced by more rainfall.
The outlook for the river runoff runoff:
If the snow is gone or