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NASA Predicts More Rain Than Snow For California

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Cars face flooding on Stockton Boulevard Sunday afternoon, Feb. 8, 2015.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California may need to prepare for less snow and more rain from the El Niño weather system developing in the Pacific Ocean, according to new satellite observations released today.

Scientist Duane Waliser with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab analyzed the historical record of moisture bands known as atmospheric rivers, which account for 40 percent of California’s water supply. Waliser says results suggest El Niño will provide California with an average number of rivers. 

"We might not get more atmospheric rivers, but any given river would be stronger in terms of precipitation," says Waliser.

Waliser says California will also likely see less snowfall and more flooding.

Martin Hoerling with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says El Niño could cause water management problems.

“The reason really that the rains that would fall in a strong El Niño are of concern is that the reservoirs have to be managed very intensely. You have to vacate these reservoirs when the heavy rain storms come to anticipate the next storm,” says Hoerling.

The results were presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.