On August 21, 2014, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for the period of August 21 through November 30, 2014. Unfortunately, for residents in California, Nevada, and southern Oregon, the predictions are not encouraging. According to the NOAA, the drought in these areas is expected to “persist or intensify” throughout this time period. For residents living in these areas, it is very troubling to imagine that it could become even worse. Here in Northern Nevada, it only takes one quick glance at Lake Tahoe or the Truckee River to see that we are suffering from a severe lack of snowfall during the past few winters. Lake Tahoe’s water level has noticeably decreased this year, causing difficulties for boat owners, while the Truckee River is so low in certain parts that the water no longer covers the entire riverbed. So what can we expect this winter? Is there hope?
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this year’s winter will bring below-normal temperatures for seventy-five percent of the country. The coldest temperatures will occur during late January/early February. For us on the west coast, however, temperatures will be closer to average. No region in the country will experience an extended period of above-normal temperatures. In terms of precipitation, it is anticipated that the eastern third of the country will see many storms with much snow or rainfall. The Midwest and the Great Lakes are expected to receive below-average snowfall. The Central and Southern Plains will face above-average precipitation, while the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains will experience average precipitation. Finally, the Southwest States are projected to see below-normal snow or rainfall.
So what does this mean for residents located in drought-stricken areas? Based on these predictions, this upcoming winter is not looking too promising. It does not appear that California, Nevada, and southern Oregon will receive the precipitation they so desperately need this winter. There still is some hope, however. The NOAA has issued an official El Niño watch. An El Niño is characterized by a warming of the central Pacific due to a combination of wind and waves. It happens at irregular intervals of two to seven years and can last from nine months to two years. It is generally most severe between December and April and results in changing weather patterns around the world. For areas currently suffering from severe drought, an El Niño could be beneficial by bringing more precipitation to these areas this winter. It could also result in a milder wilder winter for the northern part of the country. Although the NOAA has released a watch, is not guaranteed that an El Niño will occur this winter. We will just have to wait and see what happens this winter and hope for the best!