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More variable weather exposed in California Water Year 2020

October 2, 2020

Lack of precipitation results in little snowpack and runoff to reservoirs.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reported that during the period of October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020, the state had a snowpack of 50% of average on April 1, 2020 — the 10th smallest snowpack in California since 1950.

Subsequently, reservoirs received one-third of runoff from precipitation and snowmelt compared to Water Year 2019. Good reservoir storage from a wet 2019 is credited with helping the most populous state cope with record temperatures and record-setting devastation from wildfires.

California Water Year 2020 excerpt California Snow Water Content time series graphs - image credit California Department of Water Resources

“We must continue to invest in our infrastructure to prepare the state to cope with more extreme weather for the state’s needs today and in the future,” advocates Karla Nemeth, DWR Director.

early September, 2020 ENSO forecasts for Water Year 2021 suggest a La Niña year with drought conditions through February, 2021 - image credit Climate Hazards Center at UC Santa Barbara

Since more water year variability is anticipated, California has outlined tangible actions to build up climate resilience and prepare for dry periods.

Current El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions and global climate models suggest California water managers are facing a La Niña year. In particular, drought conditions are forecasted to persist through February, 2021 especially in southern California but less so for northern California according to researcher Shrad Shukla, Climate Hazards Center at UC Santa Barbara.

To assist water managers, KISTERS designs and delivers a variety of meteorological sensors to measure rainfall, snow and hail. The WMO-quality precipitation and weather sensors are commonly deployed in the wide range of California’s geographies, from Sierra mountains to the Pacific coasts and the inland deserts.