NOAA says drought will likely continue in winter

11/05/2020

The winter may not bring needed rains. With the La Niña climate pattern in play, drought is expected to continue and intensify in California through February, according to a winter outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The seasonal projection, which combined satellite observations and computer forecast modeling, predicts that over the next several months, there will be warmer, drier conditions in the southern U.S. and cooler, wetter conditions in the northern part of the country. Currently, 45 percent of the nation is experiencing a drought. Warmer- and drier-than-normal conditions were determined to be most likely in the southern two thirds of California; north of the Bay Area, there are equal chances of it being a wetter or drier year, though temperatures will likely continue to be warm. La Niña events typically occur every three to five years, and generally have the opposite effect of an El Niño event. Affecting weather across the globe, La Niña episodes represent periods of below-average surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The map shows the greater Bay Area falling prey to continued dry and warm conditions, though the customer services manager for the Inverness Public Utility District, Wade Holland, noted that La Niña years have historically been unpredictable for West Marin, occasionally leading to wet years. After moving to stage two of its four-stage water-shortage emergency declaration at the end of September, Inverness has seen some welcome reduction in water use from customers. Mr. Holland said the tanks in the system—which turn over the water pulled from streams and creeks every three days—are now refilling slightly every day, instead of doing the opposite before the district tightened use restrictions. Mr. Holland says the district did not have current plans to move into the third stage of conservation, which would prohibit all outdoor watering, though the district did contact the top 10 percent of users last week to ask for reductions. The Bolinas Community Public Utility District has also been hit harde by the drought. Afer clamping down on water use mid-summer, BCPUD in late September asked all customers to bring their usage to a standard 150 gallons per day per connection to stave off the possibility of rationing. The district has been supplementing with emergency supplies from its two modest reservoirs since May, though it’s not typical to start doing so until late summer. General manager Jennifer Blackman reported that by mid-October, customers’ usage was averaging 148 gallons per day, compared to the 168 gallons per day averaged in September. BCPUD continues to work with the users who are above that number. Last week, the BCPUD board also authorized the emergency removal of an invasive plant that has spread over one of the reservoirs, Woodrat I, causing discoloration and a change in taste and odor and leading the district to flush some of its precious reserves. Meanwhile, North Marin Water District is struggling with chronic salinity intrusion partly resulting from the drought. General manager Drew McIntyre said customers have met voluntary use reductions.