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KPBS Drought Tracker Update: 'A Normal Year So Far'


This week may have brought rain and snow to San Diego County. But precipitation levels across the state have been fairly average so far this wet season, according to the latest update from the KPBS Drought Tracker.

In San Diego County, Palomar Mountain received 3 inches of snow overnight. But San Diego doesn't get much water from local sources. The Sierra mountains are a much more crucial source of water for much of California.

Storms did bring snow to Sierra ski resorts this past week, totaling over a foot in some areas. But Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate researcher Sam Iacobellis said recent snowfall hasn't been too significant.

"It increased a bit, but I wouldn't characterize it as major snowfall like we're hoping for," said Iacobellis.

As of Friday morning, the average Sierra snowpack level was at 9 percent of what normally piles up by April 1.

The good news is that, at this early point in the wet season, the snowpack is the biggest it's been since 2011. Still, it's nothing out of the ordinary. It doesn't approach the 16 percent of normal observed on this day in 1997, when the last major El Niño season began.

Current rain levels show a similarly mixed picture across the state. Parts of San Diego County received up to half an inch of rain overnight.

Throughout California, rainfall remains at just 13 percent of the seasonal average so far this season. That's a fairly normal level compared to previous years in the drought.

"If you did not know El Niño was going on, I think you'd just consider this a normal year so far," Iacobellis said.

He said it's still too early to say what effect El Niño will have on the drought. El Niño tends to bring more storms to California in January and February, Iacobellis said.