Stagnant rain totals could set California back

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — What seemed unthinkable in late December may soon become reality in Sacramento. The year’s water surplus could turn into a deficit if the dry weather continues into March.

Each hydrological year begins on October 1. This is when Northern California tends to start seeing precipitation.

After a lackluster 2020-2021 water year posting a measly 6.61 inches, it was reassuring to see a record 5.41 inches of rain in a single day on October 24 to start the current water year.

October ended with a total of 6.71 inches of rain.

The wet weather didn’t stop there. November posted a modest 0.68 inch. Then December saw an impressive 6.98 inches of rain, for a grand total of 14.37 inches.

There has only been one other hydrological year with such a prolific start. That was in 1955, which recorded 14.38 inches of rain during that time. The 1955-1956 hydrological year ended with 25.70 inches of rain.

Since late last year, it has rained twice in Sacramento. A sum of 0.05 inches of rain fell on January 3 and 7. This dry spell occurs during what are statistically the wettest months of the year in Sacramento.

Sacramento’s water year total has been flat at 14.42 inches since Jan. 7.

What was once an 8 inch surplus over the year of water has shrunk to 1.80 inches. This surplus will become a deficit on March 13 if we do not receive any more rain.

The US Drought Monitor shows extreme drought conditions are back in some northernmost counties this week.

Maps courtesy of US Drought Monitor

A normal water year in Sacramento is 18 inches – still an achievable goal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center gives Sacramento an even chance for above- or below-normal rainfall for March.

Sacramento’s normal March rainfall total is 2.75 inches. The chances of a “Miracle March” full of heavy rainfall are low. The storms are expected to primarily affect northern areas in the Pacific Northwest.

Experts say Sacramento needs about 150% of normal precipitation to get us out of drought conditions. This remains unlikely.

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