Where's the rain? California suffering unusually dry winter from San Francisco to Los Angeles

Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

The longer that California sees the late fall and winter go by without seeing some decent storms, the worse the outlook is for a wet winter, much less an average one.

"Essentially in California, especially Southern California, we're reliant on a pretty small number of precipitation events to ... bring most of the water," Swain said. "And it's easy to miss out on just a couple of events and have a dry year."

And the outlook continues to be dry and mild, setting up a boring time for meteorologists in Southern California. The forecast for downtown L.A. between Christmas and New Year's Eve calls for partly cloudy or sunny skies, with highs mostly in the 60s to 70s.

San Francisco is also not expected to see significant storms for the next week.

In contrast to Los Angeles, Northern California did have somewhat of a decent November, depending on your perspective. San Francisco received 2.83 inches of rain, close to the average November amount of 3.16 inches.

That resulted in snow in the Sierra Nevada, home to the state's greatest mountain range that not only provides powder for ski resorts but stores California's water supply as ice to be used during the dry season.

But unfortunately, the one major storm that did get through was relatively warm. So although precipitation in the Sierra is close to average, much of it is falling as rain in the lower elevations where snow would normally accumulate, said meteorologist Scott McGuire of the National Weather Service's Reno office.

That means that the snowpack is pretty small; the amount of water contained in the snowpack is only about 34 percent of average for this time of year because snow is accumulating only at the highest elevations.

"The low elevations don't have a big snowpack at all, they're well below average for this time of year ... so the snowpack has suffered as a result," McGuire said. "We've only had one major storm -- it brought us an abundance of precipitation -- but it wasn't good for the snow cycle."

If things don't change soon, McGuire said, "we'll start to worry about the low snowpack."

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