The latest U.S. winter outlook spells trouble for dry California, but it has some good news for the Central Valley.
The outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Climate Prediction Center for February, March and April is quite grim. It expects a string of below-average temperatures and below-average precipitation across much of the lower 48 and southern California.
Forests are being ravaged by bark beetles and other pests, and in the Central Valley, farmers have been forced to cut back on the amount of moisture they can get.
However, the long-term outlook is better.
Most of the moisture that California receives from the Pacific Ocean is stored in the mountains, but now that the snowpack is receding, it is coming back.
And that will have an effect on our weather for the next 30 to 40 years or so.
It is not a disaster. But it does mean that California will see some very challenging times ahead.
A few examples of this:
California winters have always been brutal. One that took the state by surprise was the cold snap that winter of 2012. In January, temperatures were in the low 40s and low 50s. In some places, it dipped to below freezing.
The low temperatures didn’t stop the state from suffering some of the longest, coldest winters on record. In 2012, it had the highest number of days with a low temperature of below 32 degrees Fahrenheit since record-keeping began in 1895. In fact, it has been tied with the winter of 1935, which ended with below-freezing temperatures in many places, including Sacramento.
But, 2012 was a special case. The cold snap came only a year after a massive heat wave decimated most of the state and forced thousands of people to leave their homes.
There is no “normal” for California. Each winter, it is different. We can’t exactly make predictions because of the nature of the weather. The winter of 1985 was the coldest on record in California. In fact, it was the coldest in a decade.