Recent recent storms have helped reduce the percentage of California in drought but forecasters say there is a long way to go. And, while a strong El Niño is predicted, it won’t end the historic four-year drought.
The U.S. Drought Monitor released December 10, splits the report between Northern and Southern California.
The recent rains have brought a slight reduction in extreme drought for one area of northern California, but there were no changes to the drought depiction in southern California.
"The area’s [California] multi-year drought means recovery will likely happen very slowly, and the only improvement made this week was the removal of the D3 [extreme drought] in coastal northwestern California," the report noted.
El Niño Advisory
In her latest El Niño update, Sacramento National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Michelle Mead pointed out that the recent weather pattern is "a welcome change from more recent fall seasons" and a typical fall pattern for northern California.
"El Niño is still on track to rank among the top three strongest episodes going back to 1950," Mead says.
She says the typical southern jet stream storm track associated with El Niño is expected to "kick in after the New Year."
Drought Improvement Continues In Pacific Northwest
But even as the report highlighted the heavy rain, it also noted that snowfall was minimal.
"An unusually small proportion of the precipitation fell as snow in the Oregon Cascades, reducing the positive impact of the heavy precipitation," the monitor reported.
"Snowfall was a little more generous in the Washington Cascades, but the mountain chain in both states has less snowpack than normal for this time of year."
The Drought Monitor classifications improved by one category throughout northwestern Oregon, south-central Washington and adjacent Oregon, and the Washington Cascades, eliminating abnormal dryness as far southeast as Portland.
Nearly 91 percent of Oregon is in moderate drought, 88 percent is in severe and nearly 60 percent is in extreme drought. More than 60 percent of Washington is in moderate drought, 48 percent is in severe and nearly 34 percent is in extreme drought.
"Along the western side of the central Washington Cascades and in coastal northwestern Oregon, precipitation totals are 8 to locally 16 inches above normal," according to the update. "Most of the improved areas recorded a small surplus of precipitation during this period, and are now a few inches above normal for the last 6 months."