The latest U.S. winter outlook spells trouble for dry California. Here’s why.
The U.S. winter outlook for this year—a key indicator of whether California will be hit by historic snowstorms that could bury tens of thousands in coastal hills and foothills and douse the entire state in ice—is particularly bad.
The National Climate Assessment issued just last week by the federal government paints a grim picture.
And that’s not before California’s winter gets off to an especially bad start: “dirtpack snowstorms may persist through much of the region, the first snowfall may be at an average of only three inches, and the snowpack may be extremely dry.”
Here’s what else is bad:
A new report from Climate Central crunched the data behind the latest government forecasts. Here’s what they found.
“We’ve already experienced the ‘worst’ in recent historical memory,” said Jennifer Francis, Climate Central’s senior U.S. climate scientist. “This is the highest level of drought and wildfire risk, and the most severe drought of the last 100 years. And the impacts we’ll see this winter could be staggering.”
“[We] have about a one-in-four chance of experiencing the worst drought in California history by the end of the winter and only a one-in-three chance of experiencing the worst drought during the entire state’s driest year in history.”
“We may need to consider extending the fire season another month,” Francis said.
On the downside:
Even if precipitation does fall this year, it will fall mainly in the mountains and foothills.
California and Arizona will see above-average temperatures, while New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado will see below-average.
“The first snowstorms could be of very meager amounts and come at the beginning of winter,” Francis added. “That means a lot of homes and businesses could be flooded, and it may take weeks for the water to drain away.”
The good news is that the latest forecast appears to be better than the one issued four weeks ago, which had California’s winter looking almost entirely dry for the first time in recorded history.