Joe Lundberg

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Western Dryness, Especially in California

January 9, 2014; 11:30 AM ET

Thursday, 12 p.m.

It has been a while since we've focused much time on the West. Quite honestly, the weather has been fairly quiet there most of the cold and rainy season. Indeed, most of the weather action has been in and east of the Rockies in terms of cold and/or storminess. That's why most of my efforts have been focused on those areas.

To give you an idea of just how dry it has been, I looked at seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal up and down the West, and the numbers don't lie. It's really dry. Los Angeles has had about an inch of rain, a mere 26 percent of normal. San Francisco? 1.27 inches, or 17 percent of average. Medford, Ore., is at 22 percent of normal, and both Portland and Seattle are just under 50 percent of normal. Here's the latest U.S. Drought Monitor:

It's dry, and the prospects for rain in the coming weeks are not very good, especially for California.

To the north, though, it will be fairly wet through the weekend, which is good news in the short term. A series of upper-level disturbances will move in from the Pacific and bring moisture into Washington and Oregon, resulting in some much-needed rain and high elevation snows. One of these is already inland, slipping southeastward toward the central Rockies this afternoon and tonight. Right behind it another storm will crash into British Columbia late this afternoon and early tonight, spreading more rain across Vancouver and Washington (sorry, Lindsey!).

Not to be outdone, still another storm will take aim at the region tomorrow night, a stronger one at that. And it means rain will return to the Northwest coast tomorrow afternoon, with that rain becoming pretty heavy tomorrow night. This storm will generate quite a bit of wind as well. The rain will taper to showers on Saturday as the storm jumps over the mountains and reforms in southern Alberta, which means somewhat chillier air and lowering snow levels.

Even Saturday and Sunday, it will be unsettled in the Northwest, especially from the Cascades to the Coast, and even more so across Vancouver and British Columbia as a strong onshore wind south of the main storm track keeps throwing moisture at these areas. Look at the 12z Jan. 9 NAM surface forecast for Sunday evening:

Here's the projected rain totals through Sunday from the NAM model:

Notice that as wet as it will be in the Northwest through the weekend, it will be anything BUT wet in California and the Southwest. Then, going into next week, ridging will strengthen in the West, and most of the moisture will be pushed farther north for a while. The 0z Jan. 9 GFS ensembles portray a strong ridge for the middle of next week:

This is the latest five-day precipitation forecast from Sunday afternoon to next Friday afternoon from the 12z GFS:

Not a hopeful situation for a region already very dry and in desperate need of some rain. Sorry to say, it looks to stay this way for a while.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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About This Blog

Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.