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Friday, April 1

El Niño falls short of hopes, leaving California still in historic drought

Well, even though it wasn't the "Godzilla" Californians were hoping for, I'd say that without El Niño this year California's water situation would have been catastrophic. However, the most troubling aspect about the latest bad news is that it relates to the snowpack, which fell short of hopes. It could have been much worse but now Californians must look ahead to next year's snowpack and ask whether the new normal will be virtually no snowpack wthout help from El Niño. In that case brown lawns and less flushing of toilets will be laughingly inadequate measures to save California.  

As a California politician noted decades ago, you can't conserve what you don't have. Neither can you shunt from one part of the state or import from other states what is not there.  

So we are down to hope, hope that the weather pattern afflicting California, other Western states and northern Mexico for the past five years isn't evidence of a 'thousand-year' drought cycle.

Doyle Rice
4:42 p.m. EDT March 31, 2016
USA TODAY

A robust El Niño that was supposed to drench California in rain fell short of its promise, leaving nearly 90% of the state stuck in a historic drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor.

California's all-important snowpack came in below average this week, state water officials said. This time of year is typically the high point for snowpack. Snow provides about a third of California's water.

El Niño, a climate pattern marked by warmer-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific, affects weather patterns in the U.S., often delivering plentiful rain and snow to the West.

"March came in like a lion here in California, and went a long way toward refilling our dwindling reservoirs and replenishing the snowpack on the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is an important part of the state’s water supply," said Matthew Heberger, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, an environmental think tank in Oakland.

"However, the latest snowpack measurements show that it’s still a little below average for this time of the year, so we are not out of the woods yet," Heberger said. "It’s too early to declare an end to the drought, and Californians have to continue conserving water."

Statewide, water content of the mountain snowpack hit 87% of average, theCalifornia Department of Water Resources reported. While better than last year's dismal 5% of average, it's still far from ideal.

Many parts of the state will have fuller reservoirs and more water in their streams, but it's not enough to make up for the effects of previous dry years, said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program.

The snowpack this week fell just 3% short of average in the northern Sierra Nevada, but hit only 72% of average in the southern Sierra Nevada, reflecting the “northern” storm track that has been a hallmark of the 2015-16 winter wet season, according to the Drought Monitor.

During the historic drought, now in its fifth year, Californians have been ordered to use at least 20% less water, according to the Associated Press. To comply, many residents have let lawns turn brown and flushed toilets less often.

[END REPORT]

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