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    Western US weather expert

    Summer Water Woes Coming?

    2/28/2013, 8:53:38 AM

    People heading outside in California today are basking in a bright sunshine with unseasonably warm temperatures. It warms well into the 70s the next two days inland areas of Central California and southern California will see widespread middle 80s tomorrow and Saturday. It feels great! I know I love it and plan on taking a nice fast walk in the sun and warmth. This stretch of dry, warm weather is just one of several over the last two months. Compared to the weather some have endured in the U.S. lately this seems like pure heaven. But there is a dark side to the persistent, dry, warm, weather pattern. It comes in the form of having enough water to feed the huge agricultural machine which is California, where a large percentage of crops that feeds America are grown year in and year out. The fact is there just may not be enough water for the fields this summer. That means less produce and higher prices.

    The season started out like gang busters back in December. Storms brought well above normal rain and snow with the Sierra snowpack 200% of normal at one point. But the calendar turned from 2012 to 2013 and the atmosphere turned off the spigot. The snowpack is now only 60 to 70 percent of normal and dropping. January and February will end up being the driest on record for the northern Sierra. Only 2.2 inches of water has fallen and normal is 17. 1 inches. This is the least amount of water since 1921.

    From north to south similar conditions exist. Below is a chart for select cities showing the percent of normal precipitation from October 1 to the end of 2012, from January 1 to now, and the cumulative percent from October 1 until today. Statistics are great, they really tell the story quite simply.

    In Sacramento the rainfall in January and February is the third lowest on record and records go back to 1850!.

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency setting how much water is going to be available for agriculture, released earlier this week that south of the Delta the rich farming areas would only receive 25 percent of their contracted water supply. This low forecast is certainly based upon the lack of snowpack in the Sierra and the likelihood that it will remain below normal into the Spring. But it is also is this low due to pumping restrictions from the Delta due to the Delta Smelt, an endangered small fish, that were caught in these pumps killing about 300 fish back in December. Without the extra restrictions it is estimated that the allotment this summer would be more like 40 percent of normal.

    These projections are already affecting farmers, making them plan on not planting fields because of the projected lack of water and also project decrease in the workforce. They can’t wait and hope for a late season miracle.

    Is there a miracle coming? Odds are probably not give all the teleconnections that are in place and projected long range large scale weather patterns. One can hope that this is wrong but for some farmers even if it comes it may just be too late to do anything about it.

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


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    Western US weather expert