The Northern California water year began with huge storms at the end of November and throughout December 2019, but it’s since been mostly dry, diminishing the Sierra Nevada snowpack that saw a riches of snow last year. In fact, some areas of NorCal have yet to see rain this month, and if that continues, it would be the first rainless February since 1864.
With the abnormally dry February, the Sierra snowpack has seen a staggering loss of snowpack, now at 58 percent of average for this time of year. The National Weather Service released satellite images showing the difference between last year’s snowpack and the current situation:
That photo is quite the gut punch for anyone concerned with California water storage and the prospect of a difficult fire season in 2020. Hopes of a “Miracle March” to bring back the lost snowpack are prevalent throughout the state.
So why aren’t we seeing the usual precipitation from California’s rainiest month?
The above satellite image shows a high-pressure ridge blocking storms from reaching California, and creating a difficult time for meteorologists to forecast when the storms might break through. Current models show no precipitation in the region for the next two weeks, leaving NorCal bone dry and raising fears of another drought. In contrast, last February saw record snowfall in the Sierra, with multiple ski resorts boasting nearly 300 inches in just one month.
The high pressure in the ridge is so strong, it’s pushing storms onto either side of California, creating a dry bubble.
“If you look at weather stories about Seattle right now, they’re getting hammered with storm after storm,” said Jan Null, a consulting meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services, said to SFGate “The storms are going up over the top of the ridge into the Northwest, but not dipping down over California.”
There is no precipitation forecast for the rest of the month, so it’s time to begin rain dancing, NorCal.