WEATHER WATCH: Much-needed precipitation will be knocking the dust down and cleaning up the air quality around Three Rivers for the coming week. No telling how much rain this weather disturbance will bring, but the weather change is a welcome one. Thunder is possible Saturday as a cold air mass pushes the warm stuff out.
Lows will be near freezing in the mornings. Overall, there will be 20-30 degree decline in temps. In fact, daytime highs will be what the nighttime lows were last week.
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The bands of moisture that drifted across Kaweah Country earlier in the week had too much lift to drop more than a few scattered showers in the Sierra foothills. In the higher elevations like Lodgepole, the clouds yielded some precious moisture; some areas above 7,000 feet received more than 1.50 inches of moisture the fell in the form of rain and hail.
The season’s first measurable snowfall was recorded for areas above 10,000 feet.
The moisture barely made an impression on a tinder-dry landscape though the pelting rain drops dissipated dust on trails and roads. Some areas in and around Three Rivers had not experienced any appreciable rain since April 16, nearly six months ago.
Does the early-season moisture mean that fire season is over? That’s an emphatic no, especially areas subject to Santa Ana-like winds. Fire risk remains extreme for many areas; for some, the most dangerous part of the season has only just begun.
Late fall is when the warm, dry offshore winds have created some of California’s most devastating fire storms. Forecasters are already issuing advisories for the return of more hot, dry weather before any winter rains arrive.
This week, fire weather watches were in effect for the higher elevations in the northern Sacramento Valley due to warming temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds. In Kaweah Country, there are no significant fires burning but most areas of the state have one scary statistic in common: all regions, with the exception of the coast north of San Francisco, near-record dryness is the current state of the vegetation.
El Nino: Changing perceptions for California— Climate scientists are looking carefully at El Nino (often wet somewhere) and La Nina (extreme dry) as accurate rainfall and seasonal predictors. During climate change, due to warming conditions, El Nino is occurring with greater frequency than it did even two decades ago.
The evidence is suggesting that as the equatorial Pacific temperatures rise, El Nino occurs in almost every season. La Ninas become less frequent but drought conditions can persist in both.
What the studies are finding is that during a strong El Nino, California will experience record rain and snow seasons like 1982-1983 and 1997-1998. A moderate El Nino can cause the opposite extreme, either dry or wet. The year 2019 is already showing signs of becoming a moderate El Nino, similar in strength to ones experienced the last three seasons. Rainfall totals have varied from wet to dry:
2015-2016— 24.56 inches
2016-2017— 31.90 inches
2017-2018— 13.03 inches
Last year’s drought year began as a moderate El Nino then quickly nosed-dived back to a La Nina but a minor March miracle at least prolonged the inevitable and brought with it a season’s worth of precipitation.
What’s in store for 2019? So far, forecasters are saying a warm winter with higher-than-average winter temperatures for the entire West.
For precipitation? It’s still too early to tell.