La Niña hasn’t lived up to its reputation for 2016-17 any more than El Niño lived up it its reputation for 2015-16 a year ago. The much-anticipated “super” wet weather for last winter didn’t happen and the “drier” weather seen in early winter this year turned much wetter. The latest drought map from the Drought Monitor folks shows that exceptional drought has disappeared from the California map entirely and extreme drought has shrunk to a small area of southwest coastal California. Drought has retreated in Nevada as well. [See previous drought posts here and here.]
Abnormal, moderate and severe drought still dominate southern California. Drought colors have disappeared from northern California and most of northern Nevada. Abnormal and moderate drought show up only in southwestern Nevada and a small part in far northwestern Nevada extending into southeastern Oregon.
Currently snowpack in the central Sierra is running close to 200% (double the 30 year average). The remainder of the winter, however, will determine just how well runoff will help fill lakes and rivers in the coming months. A dry winter from here on out could result in a just “average” runoff year while an average winter through the April 1 final measurement could see much better stream flow and reservoir storage for the remainder of 2017.
The implications of a much above average winter could have many beneficial effects for the Truckee River with enhanced stream flows, improvements to the riparian corridor with new trees and shrubs, and an infusion of much-needed water for Pyramid Lake. The next few weeks of winter will tell us whether we have double average runoff or just run-of-the-mill runoff.