El Niño strengthens in Pacific; forecast for wetter winter increases in California & Nevada

The LA Times reports conditions are increasingly favorable for a wetter winter in California and Nevada.  The Time’s report is based on the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s map for the 3 month outlook from January through March 2016.  The most likely increase in precipitation is 60% or greater in southern California from Los Angeles and across southern Arizona.  Further north, however, the probabilities drop off to around 30% in northern California and Nevada.  Reno appears right at the 40% contour line. Temperatures are also forecast to be above average.  Today’s Reno Gazette Journal also reported on the El Niño phenomena that a wet winter is coupled with a forecast for above normal temperatures that will potentially impact snowpack. This El Niño is being compared to the winter of 1997-98 due to the similarity of the strength of the warming in the central Pacific Ocean.

NOAA precipitation forecast map for Jan-Mar 2015 (10-15-15)

NOAA precipitation forecast map for Jan-Mar 2015 (10-15-15) [Click to see full size]

The map is divided into 3 broad categories indicating “above” normal (A), “below” normal (B), or normal (N).  The map to the right is the latest 3 month outlook map for Jan-Mar 2016 (doesn’t show an “N” category), but does list “EC” that translates to “equal chances” of above, normal, or below average precipitation.  So for the Reno area, the current probability of above average precipitation is about 40%, the probability of average precipitation is 33.33% and the probability of below average precipitation is 26.67%.  In the best of all worlds that would mean a 73.33% chance of average or above average precipitation for the prime part of the winter season.  However, we are much closer to the “EC” category than to the “A” category which has equal weights for A, B and N at 33.33% each.  What will actually happen, of course, will only be known when April 2016 gets here.

The drought outlook for the next three months, October through December 2015, remains droughty with higher than average temperatures.

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About Dennis Ghiglieri

My concern for the Truckee River grew over the years. It started with picking up trash and supporting better water quality. I helped create the "living river"plan with other citizens on the Community Flood Coalition; a plan to reduce flood impacts to infrastructure through river restoration and protection of the floodplain. I understand how critical the Truckee River is to the environment – and economy – of our entire region. I'm hoping that through these pages we can all understand our connection to the Truckee River and why we need to protect it.

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