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Strong El Niño May Help, Won’t End California Drought

The latest forecast shows a strong El Niño will persist into Spring 2016 but it won’t bring the amount of precipitation needed to end a four-year water deficit in California.   

And it may not come as much-needed snow. 

Meteorologist Michelle Mead is with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

She says the latest outlook, which uses historical data, shows Northern California can expect above-average precipitation from a strong El Niño event.  

"We've had six of them that have been in the strong category," says Mead. "And of those six, Northern California has also seen benefit with at least normal, if not above-normal precipitation, four out of those six events." 

El Nino in CA.PNG

But Mead says, the ocean warming condition won't end the water supply deficit caused by four years of drought.  And, she says colder storms - from the Gulf of Alaska - bring better potential for snow.  

"Well if you look at the precipitation outlooks they do unfortunately still indicate that our temperatures are expected to remain in the above-average category," says Mead. "And we won't know actually what our snow season is going to look like until we get into it." 

The statewide snowpack measured April 1, 2015 was the lowest in records dating back to 1950.    

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor says unseasonably heavy rains last week reduced the wildfire threat and increased the topsoil moisture in California. But, it noted the rain did little for the long-term drought or reservoir storage in the state. 

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