More drought in 2015?

By Alex MacLean / The Union Democrat

Several long-range forecasts suggest Californians should brace for another dry fall and winter, following three consecutive years of drought that have already taken a heavy toll on the state's water supplies and amplified wildfire conditions.

Any rainfall from an anticipated weak El Niño weather pattern likely will not be enough to break the current drought's grip on the state, according to AccuWeather, a Pennsylvania-based weather prediction company.

Other forecasts also predict low rainfall and above-average temperatures through the rest of the year and into 2015.

The National Weather Service is predicting a 65 percent chance that a weak El Niño weather pattern will hit California this fall. Many are hoping this will at least bring some relief to the southern portion of the state, which typically receives more rain during El Niños than the northern and central regions.

An El Niño cycle generally occurs every three to seven years when trade winds weaken in the Pacific Ocean and cause water temperatures to increase in the eastern part of the ocean. This can change the distribution of high and low pressure in the atmosphere, resulting in the jetstream over North America dipping south to bring severe weather across the southern U.S.

However, AccuWeather lead long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok warned against counting on a weak El Niño to bring enough moisture to reverse the damage caused by three years of drought.

"We've noticed that weak El Niños don't always bring beneficial rains to Southern California," he said. "They probably are not going to get enough rain at this point to deal with the drought - they will get some but not nearly enough."

Furthermore, El Niños can also create a split in the jet stream into western Canada and leave much of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest "fairly dry," according to AccuWeather.

"Northern California will have a tough time," Pastelok said. "Fronts will tend to weaken heading into the West Coast, so they might not get the full blast of moisture."

For the complete story, see the Aug. 22 edition of The Union Democrat.

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