October has ended slightly warmer and decidedly drier than average. This is a pattern we’ve seen since August.
The difference is that extremely warm anomalies from August and September have weakened. Both of those months saw temperatures 4-5 degrees above normal, averaged over the entire month. That was a lot. As we’ve moved into the transitional Fall season, there have been plenty of ups and downs. Even though two significant cool snaps have punctuated October, don’t forget that we observed a 100-degree high temperature on the 3rd, a rarity so late in the warm season (much less in October). Bakersfield also recorded a high of 95 on the 18th.
As we sit on at the mid-point of Autumn (November 1st is halfway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice), the much hoped for El Nino event doesn’t appear to be materializing. In fact, computer models that predict sea surface temperatures have now swung back in the opposite direction from last summer, forecasting neutral temperatures beginning In December- not favoring either an El Nino or a La Nina episode. The back news for California is that this means less rainfall than would have otherwise fallen in a moderate El Nino.
So, in addition to my “No More 90s” forecast issued today (Halloween), I am also predicting a near normal winter precipitation outlook. But it should feature extremes of both dry and wet weather. For the period November through April I believe we will see 4 of the 6 months with below normal rainfall/snowfall in Kern County. This may lead some to think a significant drought is looming. As it stands today, most of Kern County is in a “moderate drought”, with only the Ridgecrest area categorized as a severe drought. That designation hasn’t change at all since May. We don’t typically receive much precipitation from May through October anyway, so you wouldn’t expect a big change. But with a dry November on the horizon, our moderate drought will become severe. By December it will worsen. The caveat for us is that 2 of the 6 months previously mentioned will bring above normal precipitation. If the Madden-Julian Oscillation (a tropical moisture entity in the Pacific) develops, we may see the Pineapple Express set up either in January or February. That would provide well above normal rainfall to our state.
Temperatures should hold mostly near or slightly above normal. With the lack of rainfall early on, fog season (which runs from November 15 through Valentine’s Day) may not be too bad at the beginning. But in late January the fogginess could increase with a late bumper crop of school fog delays. Once we get through February I think March will trend toward drier weather again.
So the bottom line is to hope for one or two special circumstances that might elevate our rainfall prospects. It is instructive to remember that two years ago the December 2010 Bakersfield floods (in which we saw the rainiest month since records began in 1889) was smack in the middle of a La Nina event, which brings unusually dry weather. Anything is possible, and just might happen when you least expect it.