Southern California Will See Winter Flip-Flop

August 17, 2010; 1:01 PM ET
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In the California's Westland Water District of the Central Valley, canals carry water to southern California on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009. As California prepares for its fourth year of drought, farmers are nervous in California's San Joaquin Valley, whose eight counties, if they were their own state, would be the top producing in the nation. (AP Photo/Russel A. Daniels)

Thanks to a strong La Nina weather pattern, the West Coast is likely to see winter conditions opposite of what it endured last year.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist and West Coast resident Ken Clark said, "The difference going into this winter, is going to be totally on the opposite side, last year we had a moderate El Nino going through the winter, that drastically changed this spring to a La Nina pattern."

Clark said that the La Nina will create drier and warmer weather in the Southwest.

With the Southwest, and especially Southern California, expected to be drier than normal, some Southern California residents may be worried about how dry it will really be.

Clark notes that it can be difficult to estimate this far out. He said, "It will depend on whether the La Nina continues to strengthen, which there are some indications that it will be over the next four or five months."

At this time, Clark is suggesting that precipitation in Southern California could be as much as 10 percent below normal.

"It could be a significant departure that could have large ramifications going into next summer," he said.

"If we go back into moderate or stronger drought conditions for this winter, we could not only be looking at going back on old [water] restrictions, but increasing restrictions on the amount of water to be used... not only to residents, but also to the extremely important farming community in the San Joaquin Valley."

Dana Friehauf, a principal water resource specialist for the San Diego County Water Authority, said the last three or four years have been critically dry for much of Southern California, despite a slight break in the 2009-2010 winter.

Friehauf said that water restrictions and drought pricing are already in place for most of the water authority's customers.

"So another dry year really means that we will be continuing the mandatory restrictions and drought pricing," she said.

Last winter, San Diego recorded almost 8 inches of precipitation between December and February, significantly more than the 5.63 inches it typically receives during that time frame.

Friehauf said, "because last year was a good year, [we had] been able to put more water into storage, which is also beneficial."

Though Friehauf said there are still many uncertainties, because of the extra rainfall last year and the efforts of residents to conserve, she does not believe that water restrictions will increase.

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