California Drought Outlook Extends at Least Into April

Most of California will still be in drought in April even though conditions will probably improve across the southern part of the state, according to the latest forecast from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal rains and the potential for a weak El Nino forming in the equatorial Pacific have increased the chances for the drought to ease in southern California as it persists or gets worse in the central and northern areas, the center said in a three-month outlook, issued today.

“But it must be emphasized that improvement is not elimination, and that most of the state will still be in drought to some degree by the end of April,” David Miskus, a forecaster at the center in College Park, Maryland, said in an analysis accompanying the forecast.

California has suffered three years of drought, and water in the nation’s most productive agricultural region has been rationed. The state receives 75 percent of its rainfall from November to March and 50 percent from December to February, according to California’s Water Resources Department.

Early in the season, a series of storms brought rain across large parts of the state as well as some snow in the mountains, providing minor improvement there and elsewhere in the West, the center said.

“Since December 20, however, precipitation has been nearly non-existent across much of California and Nevada, halting favorable moisture conditions that had raised hopes for additional winter drought improvement in California,” Miskus wrote.

Snowpack Deficit

As of Jan. 13, the state was 40 percent behind normal when it comes to the water content of the snowpack in the mountains, he said.

Snow is crucial for California because it allows water to remain in the mountains, where it won’t melt until spring, when it’s needed.

Milder temperatures meant that much of the precipitation in the mountains earlier in the season came as rain.

Elsewhere, drought may develop or intensify in parts of the Mississippi River Valley and parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky, the center said. It is forecast to persist in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. There may be improvement across Arizona and New Mexico.

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