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La Niña Brings Dry January To San Diego

But December Rains May Lessen Predictions Of Spring Wildfire Risk

Audio

Aired 1/31/11

With all the rain in December, some people wondered if predictions of a drier winter were wrong. But January has been dry. December's rain means conditions are less ripe for spring wildfires.

With all the rain in December, some people wondered if predictions of a drier winter were wrong. But January has been dry. December's rain means conditions are less ripe for spring wildfires.

La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific. The colder than normal water is depicted in this image in blue. During a La Niña stronger than normal trade winds bring cold water up to the surface of the ocean.
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Above: La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific. The colder than normal water is depicted in this image in blue. During a La Niña stronger than normal trade winds bring cold water up to the surface of the ocean.

Climate researchers predicted a strong La Niña would bring below-average rainfall to Southern California this winter...and, so far, that's what's happening.

National Weather Service San Diego Meteorologist Tina Stall said a moderate-to-strong La Niña continues.

"The forecast pretty much hasn't changed that much compared to what it started out as," said Stall. "La Niña's currently near its peak and still expected to persist into the spring in the Northern Hemisphere."

Stall said that so far, San Diego is nearly 1.75 inches below normal rainfall for the month. She said normal for January is 1.97 inches and so far there's been just .26 inches.

Stall said there's a slight chance of light showers in the forecast, but high pressure will bring continued dry weather for the foreseeable future.

La Niña is defined as cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that change global weather patterns.

Last November, University of Colorado researcher Klaus Wolter said La Nina could increase the chance for wildfires in the spring.

But he said that's no longer an issue because of the wet December.

"One spectacular event right before Christmas, if you take that one out, it has been a perfectly dry forecast," said Wolter. "But that one week of mayhem has certainly more than made up for many weeks of dry weather."

California Department of Water Resources officials are not worried about water supply this year due to good statewide reservoir storage.

The latest measurement on January 28 shows the Sierra snow-pack is holding above average water content despite a dry January.

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