California Hit With Abnormally Dry Conditions, Drought Likely

Holly Quan
November 21, 2019 - 1:29 pm
Folsom police Officers Eric Baade, left, and Daren Prociw, right, of the mounted enforcement detail, ride their horses across the exposed lake bed at Folsom Lake, Jan. 21, 2014 in Folsom, Calif.

Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group/MCT/Sipa USA

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Despite a winter storm forecast to hit the Bay Area soon, California may be headed for another drought.

The National Weather Service’s latest drought forecast, released Thursday, shows that California is likely to develop a drought between now and the end of the February, with abnormally dry conditions covering most of the state.

“Definitely looks like a dryer than normal season,” said Brian Garcia, a meteorologist with the NWS. Nonetheless, there is no cause for alarm just yet, he said.

“‘Drought development likely’ — that’s the lowest level on this map. The next level beneath that is nothing. So while it may not look good, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be into drought restrictions and things like that by summertime," said Garcia.

California has deep water reserves meaning one relatively dry winter is not likely to have an impact. The question is whether the dry conditions will develop into a deep drought.

“If we go two years without substantial amounts of rain, that’s when we’re really starting to look at like the reservoirs have been drawn down, we’re tapping deeper into the water tables,” said Garcia. “That’s when we really start to get concerned about things and that’s the reason the 4.5-year drought was such a big deal, because we exhausted our reservoirs in a lot of areas."

Predicting the longterm drought outlook is notoriously difficult, especially in a state like California where four years of drought were followed by two years of over 200% of average precipitation in 2017 and 2018.

“We really are in the land of feast or famine here,” says Garcia.