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KPBS Drought Tracker Update: ‘At Least It’s Been Normal’

DATA SOURCES: Rainfall data comes from a weighted average of 96 weather stations throughout the state. Snowpack data represents the average of three different multi-station measures of the northern, central and southern Sierra snowpack. Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers, through the California Nevada Applications Program RISA and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, helped compile the data.

Rainfall data comes from a weighted average of 96 weather stations throughout the state. Snowpack data represents the average of three different multi-station measures of the northern, central and southern Sierra snowpack. Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers, through the California Nevada Applications Program RISA and the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, helped compile the data.

In San Diego, the holidays have been chilly and spotted with rain. But the KPBS Drought Tracker shows precipitation throughout California has been just middling so far this wet season.

As of Tuesday morning, the average Sierra snowpack was sitting at 38 percent of what normally piles up by April 1. That's an improvement on levels from California's past two years of drought. But they're still fairly average levels for this time of year.

Rainfall throughout the state was at 39 percent of the April 1 normal, also hewing close to historical averages.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate researcher David Pierce said this year's El Niño remains one of the strongest on record, but it has not yet channeled monster storms toward California.

"We're hoping for a real bumper year of high water totals, with lots of snow and lots of precipitation," Pierce said. "That hasn't really happened so far, but at least it's been normal. That's a lot better than we've had in previous years."

Moving into 2016, Californians don't yet have cause to be pessimistic about the drought getting worse. But so far El Niño hasn't offered any reason to be optimistic about it getting better.

Scripps climate researcher Dan Cayan offered some consolation, pointing out that El Niño storm activity tends to pick up moving into January. He said current conditions suggest rain and snow levels could climb soon.

"We have good odds for active Pacific storm tracking into California off and on during next three months," Cayan wrote in an email.

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