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KPBS Drought Tracker Update: Halfway Through Wet Season, Where Does CA Stand?

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.

KPBS Drought Tracker Update: Halfway Through Wet Season, Where Does CA Stand?

GUESTS:

David Wagner, science & technology reporter, KPBS

Dan Cayan,climate researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Transcript

After a week that brought rain and snow to San Diego County, an update from the KPBS Drought Tracker shows statewide rain totals growing at a steady pace, but the Sierra snowpack struggling to keep up.

After a week that brought rain and snow to San Diego County, an update from the KPBS Drought Tracker shows statewide rain totals growing at a steady pace, but the Sierra snowpack struggling to keep up.

We're now close to halfway through California's wet season, defined as the six months between Oct. 1 and April 1. So far, statewide rainfall is running a bit ahead of schedule. As of Monday morning, the state has received 58 percent of what normally falls by the beginning of April.

This year's rainfall eclipses totals recorded on this day in 2015, when a strong El Niño was expected to deliver above-average precipitation. A weak La Niña — a weather pattern typically associated with drier conditions in California — hasn't prevented storms from drenching parts of the state this year.

But warm temperatures have prevented the Sierra snowpack from keeping pace with rainfall. On average, snowpack measurements are hitting only 24 percent of the normal April 1 measurement.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate researcher Dan Cayan helped compile this data. He said despite the lackluster start, there's still time for the snowpack to grow.

"The winter's not over yet," Cayan said. "It doesn't mean that we won't get some storms that are relatively cool and large snow-generators. So, we'll see."

The Sierra snowpack serves as an important source of water for many parts of California leading into warmer summer months. Rain is helping to fill California's reservoirs. But Cayan notes that after six years of drought, parched soil is absorbing lots of rainfall, and not as much water is being captured as possible.

"Since it's been pretty dry in the last several years, some of that water really hasn't run off," said Cayan. "We're still in a catch-up mode as far as recovering from the long period of dryness we've had."

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