Brrrrr! It’s not a word you normally hear in sunny Southern California, but last week was not so sunny.
Instead, two storms roared through the Southwest bringing rain, chilly weather and snow in the mountains.
It was wonderful!
Snow in the West – it’s a beautiful thing! Source: Zink Dawg at en.wikipedia
If you live in the Desert Southwest, any rain or snow is welcome. Unfortunately, this winter has been relatively dry. For the millions who depend on the run-off from the mountain snowmelt, this is bad news. Last year, there was enough water in the reservoirs for people to enjoy their lawns, gardens and golf courses. Farmers could irrigate their crops. This year, there might be some restrictions.
The snow in the Southwest depends on the Pacific, particularly the Tropical Pacific. When the tropical waters are warm, like they are during an El Niño, the global winds carry moisture deep into the Desert Southwest. When they are cool, the winds tropical moisture is usually steered away. The weather tends to be cooler and drier.
This year the waters have been cooler. They are not a cold La Niña, but they have been cool enough that the Golden state and much of the West has been drier than normal. There has not been as much snow as normal. That is not only bad news for the skiers, hungry for powder snow on their slopes, but also for next year’s river runoff.
This year’s snowpack has been low. That is not good news for Western rivers or water supplies. Source: USDA
Fortunately, as the latest two storms have shown, the Pacific is beginning to change. The Tropical Pacific is beginning to warm up. It is a process that can take weeks, even months, but it should bring some spring snowfall to the mountains. It won’t be enough to fill all of the reservoirs, but it will help.
For those of you who chose to live in “Sunny California” for the sunshine, this may be annoying. However, any rain and snow will mean more water for farms, lawns and gardens. So try to remember where you stored your umbrellas and jackets and pass the time reading your seed catalogs for your summer garden.
Cold and snow in California and the Southwest now, means more water this summer. Source: Huntington Gardens in Wikipedia
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.