Southern California rainfall in January varied from location to location, but most areas had close to or above normal rainfall for the month, which is a welcome change from the past several years.
The numbers show a lot of variability, but the good news is most places were at or above normal in January. Palm Springs had 2.26 inches, which is 1.26 above normal. The storms earlier in the month focused a lot of rainfall and snowfall over the mountains, as well as the adjacent areas to the west and east of the mountains.... including Palm Springs. This may contribute to a nice wildflower season in the next few months.
The official winter rainy season starts on October 1 each year, and our total rainfall numbers since Oct. 1 are a little less exciting. Some areas in San Diego County are above normal, but most of the rest of Southern California is still slightly below average for Oct. 1 - Feb. 1. This isn't as grim of a picture as it was last year, but is a far cry thus far from what El Nino years are capable of bringing.
The good news is that areas to our north in Central and Northern California, home to the High Sierras and many of the reservoirs that supply water to so much of the state, have been solidly above normal. This part of the state is where the precipitation matters most. A few examples:
- Redding (since Oct. 1): actual 22.54 inches (normal 18.81) = 3.73 above normal
- Eureka (since Oct. 1): actual 32.78 inches (normal 22.47) = 10.31 above normal
The outlook continues to show dry weather for Southern California this week, with a few very weak systems bringing light rain or snow to northern California. It appears another pattern shift will allow the opportunity for heavier rainfall to return around mid February.
This has been an unusual El Nino year thus far, since the Pacific NW and N. Cal have fared very well (which is exceptionally good news!). A lot of scientists are debating what is different this time around. I personally believe we need to wait until May to judge the entire season. We still have late February, March and April ahead of us. There have been heavy storm cycles lasting only 8-10 days long that have hit California in the past, raising us far above normal in just a few weeks time. Once we get to the middle of April, we will have the majority of our storm cycle behind us and can form a better analysis on the final tally. El Nino years tend to focus rainfall in the late winter and spring months... so perhaps we have some seriously wet months ahead of us. I'm not ready to throw in the blanket just yet. Let's see how things go! One thing is for sure - the added rainfall this winter certainly hasn't worsened the drought.