February is ending on a dry and mild note. March will come in like a lamb.
However, our hydrologic situation is not faring well. The Sierra snowpack currently run at only about 67% of normal, with the southern Sierra a bit lower still at only 61%. That equates to about 13” of liquid water stored in the snow. So if it all melted in one day, the result would be as if a 13” heavy rainstorm fell (with dramatic flooding). Fortunately the stored water up in our mountains will be delivered at a slower rate. Temperatures in the 80s for Saturday in the south valley will translate to mild enough weather in the mountains to cause accelerated melting. But it should be noted that the middle of the snowfall season is April 1st, still a month away. At that point we typically see the greatest snow depths.
But if the polar jet stream doesn’t dip farther south during the next 30 days we may be facing a difficult summer. Checking the medium and long range computer models doesn’t provide any confidence. My March forecast, and for the remainder of spring (which officially begins on March 20th), calls for below average rainfall and snowfall. The mid-point of our rainy season came back on February 12th. Since then we’ve seen one sizeable precipitation event that brought .52” in Bakersfield (and closed both major passes for a time). At the end of the month, Bakersfield will have recorded only .60” of rainfall, 48% of normal for February. For the water year, we are now sitting at 2.22” of rainfall, exactly 50% of average. So far we have seen 28 rain days, compared with the normal 39 days for an entire water year (which ends June 30th). The upcoming month of March is often wet, with 1.21” considered climatologically normal.
Unfortunately, it is not an optimistic outlook. The El Nino Southern Oscillation in the equatorial Pacific is neutral, bringing little impact to California through the spring. Weather systems are predicted to generally miss us to the north and the east. More storms are destined to hit the central and eastern portions of the country, but high pressure will be nosing in from the eastern Pacific more than not. I believe we will get a couple of weak to moderate storms through March and early April. But once late April and May arrive our chances for any meaningful rainfall rapidly diminish.
Summer 2013 is expected to be near or slightly cooler than average (but still very hot) with below normal rainfall. I think an active monsoon season may develop a bit early, in July, with heavy precipitation over desert and mountain areas of Kern County. There will likely be one or two 3-4 days periods of extreme heat with highs 110-112. I’m expecting 3-5 heat waves. But before we think too far into the future, enjoy the upcoming weekend and a nice spring preview. Cooler weather comes next week with a chance for much needed rain. Of course, that is the beauty of weather in Kern County- it changes from time to time.