How dry it is and will continue to be

By Ken Clark
Senior Meteorologist for

My last blog of 2011 showed how warm and dry much of the West was in December. The calendar may have been chanted, but the weather pattern certainly hasn’t. If the long-range models are right, we may see no appreciable change over the next two weeks.

So. Oregon and California have virtually no snow. Compare this to a year ago when there was at least 50-75 inches in the Cascades and sierras. From Jan 4-12, southern Oregon prediction was for .o001 and California.00. The week of jan. 12-17 both areas can expect no precipitation,

I will remind you that there can be errors, and sometime huge errors, in computer models that go out this far. However, given that pattern we have been in for the last five to six weeks, it is certainly conceivable.

According to just released snowpack study of the Sierra, the snowpack is only 19 percent of normal for the date and 7 percent of April 1 normal. Right now, officials are not overly concerned about these exceptionally low numbers. Quoting DWR Director Mark Cowin, he says, “fortunately, we have more of winter ahead of us, and our reservoir storage is good.”

I think the second part of his statement may be more valid than the first. I see no reason why there is much to be optimistic about seeing a major recovery in the snow deficit the rest of the winter as we remain in a La Nina that has been quite dominant. However, I will say that he has a point about the reservoirs. After last year’s huge increases in the reservoirs, one year of drought may not bring massive changes in water allocations. I say may not because this seems tied to politics as much as reality. We will see how his statement holds as we go longer into the rest of this winter and coming spring.

The big impact in the short term is on the ski industry. The lack of nature’s snowfall has to be having an effect on the turn out on the slopes. Even though resorts have been able to make snow (that costs lots of money), people that live in the lowlands that visit the resorts are just not as motivated to ski or board when they look up into the mountains and see a lack of snowfall except on the slopes. Of course, this snow drought not only affects the ski resorts but also the resort towns who rely on people to flock to the mountains for their livelihood.

The importance of this story will mean I will leave this posted for at least an extra day, so more people can read it. This is the number one weather story in the West so far this season. And it very well may be the weather story of the entire winter.

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