Well, we did it. Last week our 2009-10 water year rainfall in Bakersfield spilled over the normal mark for the first time since 2005-06.
Everyone knows about the prolonged drought California has endured for the last 3 years. In fact, only twice since 1999 has Bakersfield received more than the 30-year average annual rainfall of 6.49”. That was until the middle of last week when plenty of rain came to Kern County. Some areas got well over an inch Tuesday through early Thursday. Officially, the .52” which fell at Meadows Field put us over the top for this water year. Even if it didn’t rain again until autumn, the quota for the water year has been achieved. And this is the case throughout California where virtually all cities have enjoyed surplus precipitation this month. Bakersfield is more than 200% of normal April rainfall, making 5 out of the last 6 months rainier than average. Only March was stingy (usually the wettest month of the year). El Nino has delivered as expected. Snow water equivalents in the Sierra vary from 29” to 39”, with an average of 33”. That means so much snow is sitting in the mountains to our northeast, if it were to all melt in an instant the equivalent would be a storm delivering 33” of rain. Fortunately, that water will be doled out over a long period of time. The snowpack is now running 132% of normal Sierra-wide and 166% in the northern portion of the range.
This is all very good news for California residents. But what does the future hold? It appears another cool and windy system will brush by the state Wednesday with a slight chance for rain. A second portion of that storm will dig into Nevada on Friday with only a passing chance for rain. What had looking promising last week now looks mostly dry- but still cool and windy. The difference is that both systems will track a bit farther north and east than first thought, leaving us on the drier side. But without question, it has been sharply cooler than a normal April. Mean temperatures have run a full 4 degrees below normal. We set or tied two record low maximum temperatures last week with the cold storm. Only 5 days out of 24 this month has Bakersfield been warmer than expected for that day. The April chill will continue through the end of the month, despite a beautiful weekend we’ve enjoyed.
I am forecasting the cool and wet pattern to end in May, perhaps by mid-month as the northern hemisphere re-orients for summer. We at channel 29 are hosting our annual “Hot Times” Contest with an opportunity for you to guess when you believe the first 100-degree day (and minute) will occur. Guesses are being accepted through Monday May 17th. In that spirit, summer is looming large and within just a few weeks all this cool and wet weather we’ve had will be mostly forgotten. The heat will be on. Snow will melt in the mountains prompting river warnings for swift flows making for great white water rafting, but also threatening floods in a few spots. Next thing you know it will be wildfire season, made a little worse thanks to the heavy rains that caused grass and brush to grow.
For everything there is a season, and our epic El Nino season is coming to a close. We may see some rain in May to exceed the average .24”, but that would only be a bonus. Then get ready for a hot summer. According to long range predictions, this one should be hotter than normal.