December 2011 was very wet in California, with up to double the normal precipitation that month. However, turning the calendar to 2013 seems also to turn the spigot off; since then, only drips of rain have fallen, leading to the driest calendar year on record in many spots for 2013.
The map above shows just three cities that will break the record. One weak trough moving through the state from north to south Friday into Saturday morning will only bring some clouds and no rain. Behind it, another huge ridge develops to round out 2013 with dry, warmer-than-normal weather from north to south.
How widespread and how bad is it? The chart below shows a number of cities, the amount of rain to date in 2013, what is normal and the percentage of normal. The last column is perhaps the most important. Look at those figures, many in the teens and 20s.
This has led to severe to extreme drought conditions over almost all of California, both short and long term drought.
As far out as our non-seasonal models go they show no end to this very dry weather pattern. In fact, the GFS that goes out through Jan. 11, 2014 shows no appreciable rain from the Bay Area on south. The European that goes out through Jan. 5 shows no rain at all. Seasonal models show a neutral ENSO continuing but more importantly below, to well below, normal precipitation through March. That is pretty much the rest of the so-called rainy season.
With the huge agricultural community already burdened by high prices of water and big restrictions on the amount of water allocated, this bleak outlook could be quite significant. I am not one to throw words around to hype situations. In fact, most of you know that I detest when the media does this on a routine basis with almost any weather event. But this much lack of rain over such a long period of time could prove to be catastrophic for farmers. For the rest of us, it could also mean water restrictions and almost certainly more costly water.
The remainder of the week a large building ridge of high pressure takes over
There will be more showers and thunderstorms are likely that can produce very heavy downpours in Arizona.
This rain caused problems with flash flooding producing some damage and there were a few swift water rescues.
Computer models are insistent that a rather strong piece of energy will move through California Tuesday, bringing more widespread rainfall.
This will make for a very hazardous period for firefighters into early Friday night.