Southwest Dry Spell will Continue for Now

January 26, 2011; 2:10 PM
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Residents of the West Coast and Southwest have likely noticed the lack of rain they have had recently. So what implications does the dry spell have on the region?

Los Angeles has recorded about 0.6 of an inch so far this month, and no rain has been recorded since Jan. 11.

Likewise, San Francisco has recorded 18 percent of their normal rainfall this month.

A northward bulge in the jet stream and the current La Niña setup are responsible for this dry spell. Typical La Niña patterns often influence the jet stream to become positioned farther north along the west coast of North America, bringing the Pacific Northwest increased precipitation while leaving the Southwest dry and mild.

This is a stark contrast to December, when the pattern brought record rainfall to the West Coast.

Downtown Los Angeles had more than 5 times their normal rainfall when 10.26 inches of rain fell last month, and 2.8 inches on Dec. 19 alone.

Thanks to the deluge of December rain, the region is not having drought trouble, at least for the time being. In addition, the recent Santa Ana wind events that have kicked up, including the most recent event Wednesday, have not brought a significant wildfire threat to the region.

Despite the lack of rain, many cities are still boasting above-normal rainfall amounts this season. From July 1 (which is the standard date California uses when discussing rainfall normals) to the present, Los Angeles is 212 percent above normal.

Other cities, including Fresno, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Flagstaff, all exceed 100 percent of normal rainfall. Phoenix is an exception, recording 73 percent of normal.

"One thing this does point out is that it is certainly good that there was all the rain and mountain snow in December," said Senior Meteorologist and West Coast Expert Ken Clark. "If this did not occur, the Southwest would be in a world of hurt for water."

The dry pattern will stay in place for at least another week, so the region is holding out--for now.

"This is something we will have to watch closely over the next couple of months," Clark said.


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