Toasty winter temperatures will continue to bless the lower deserts for another week. High temperatures through next Thursday are expected to range between 84-92 degrees, with lows mostly in the 50's to low 60's. This pattern is perfect for those looking to enjoy comfortable days and nights outdoors.
Unfortunately, this pattern is a real bummer for our drought.
I tabulated our monthly temperature and rainfall summaries from October through February (to date), and it shows a mixture of weather the past 5 months.
Temperatures in October were well above normal, but averaged just below normal for November, December and January, while the jet stream and low pressure systems pummeled the West from Central California and to the north. This allowed cooler air from the Pacific to dominate for several months during the depth of winter. However, February brought a pattern shift, as a persistent high pressure planted itself over the West. This has allowed our temperature to average over 7 degrees above normal for the month. The average high temperature for February has been nearly 81 degrees! It's difficult to complain about that!
Rainfall has been consistently BELOW average as well since October. January was the only month we experienced above normal rainfall in Palm Springs. However, because the rainfall that month was rather heavy, we are currently only 1.28 inches below normal. Thankfully, Central and Northern California has seen average to above average precipitation this winter... and areas further north into Oregon and Washington have experienced one of the wettest winters on record. This is highly unusual, as previous El Nino years typically bring drought to the Pacific NW. Large areas of the Northwest will likely be removed from severe drought status soon.
Looking forward, the chance for heavy precipitation throughout Southern California is looking less promising, according to the long range computer forecasting models. Several storms may brush through Central and Northern California early March and then again in the middle of the month. The big caveat to all of this, is the long range computer models have done a horrible job of forecasting since the beginning of February. They were spot on in predicting the heavy January storms, but their reliability has curiously failed ever since.
SO.... it will be interesting to see if the high pressure system keeping us so dry will finally weaken sometime in mid March enough to allow another stormy pattern to sink south into California. Part of the key to this occurring is whether the Hudson Bay low pressure system over Eastern Canada will weaken and allow our high pressure system to move east. Currently, the pattern is stuck, with storms approaching the West Coast, then weakening as they hit the high pressure cell over our area. They crawl back to the north, then become reinvigorated over the Eastern US as they dive south as repetitive systems develop from the Great Lakes through the Mid Atlantic region.
A lot of scientific chat has begun over the paltry effects El Nino has had on Southern California and Baja this winter. Some have suggested the warmest water was a bit too far to the west this winter to engage the southern jet stream and Gulf of Alaska Low. Others have postulated the warm "blob" off the West Coast early in the season disrupted the jet stream. We may not truly understand what was different this year, but it certainly has stumped many a scientist. Record rainfall was instead thrust into Oregon and Washington. The atmosphere was very much different this winter compared to the last few, on an aggregate level, but the effects here in Southern California have been disappointing.
Still holding some optimism for a stormy middle and end of March, but without much consistency in the long term computer models, it appears we shouldn't hold much trust in forecasts much over about 5-7 days.
In the meantime, get out and enjoy this amazing desert weather! There's no sense not appreciating it, since we know temperatures will be climbing steadily the next several months!