Much-needed mountain snow and rain returned to California this winter, but fell short of expectations amid a super El Niño.
The official snow season for California’s Sierra Nevada came to an end at the start of April on a below-normal note and one that AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark called “disappointing.”
The amount of water stored in the snow for the entire mountain chain averaged 14 percent below normal on April 1, according to the California Cooperative Snow Surveys.
The above images, provided by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, show the amount of water stored in the Sierra Nevada on April 2, 2015, (left) and on April 2, 2016 (right).
The northern Sierra fared better than the southern Sierra with the amount of water in the snow averaging only 5 percent below normal, compared to the 27 percent below normal in the south.
“The numbers are not anywhere near what many had wanted going into the winter,” Clark said. “The much-heralded El Niño brought more snow than the previous four years, but that was not hard to accomplish.”
El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, near the equator, and typically leads to more storms targeting California.
“The snow that falls over the Sierra Nevada in the winter is crucial during the spring and summer as melting snow accounts for roughly 30 percent of California’s water supply,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada said.
Outside of the mountains, the northern-third of California benefited from near- to above-normal rainfall this wet season (since October 1). However, rain was held well below normal in Southern California.
Downtown Los Angeles only received 6.59 inches of the 13.54 inches that typically falls.
“That’s not a great deal better off than last year,” Clark said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that 55 percent of California is suffering from extreme to exceptional drought as of March 24. This is a far cry from what some had hoped would be a drought-busting season due to the strong El Niño.
The anticipation of a super El Niño winter raised hopes of substantial rain and mountain snow, but AccuWeather meteorologists cautioned last summer that such a scenario may not unfold.
The storm track into the Northwest this winter allowed Portland, Oregon, to set a new record for the wettest meteorological winter (December to February) with 26.57 inches.
Clark added that the lackluster super El Niño impacts aren’t all bad news.
“The reservoir levels in the big three reservoirs of northern California are far better off to date this year than last.
Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, leaves the snow covered meadow after conducting the snow survey at Phillips Station near Echo Summit, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
“This will help some going into the late spring and summer,” Clark said, “But with the great lack of rain in much of central and Southern California, it is highly doubtful water restrictions will be less severe than last year.”
While Californians may have hoped for a season similar to 1997-98 when the last super El Niño occurred, one major factor hindered those chances.
“A lot goes into the forecast,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ed Vallee said, “and just because it is an El Niño winter does not necessarily result in excessive rainfall for California.”
“Much like AccuWeather meteorologists foresaw last summer, a strongly positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) had an influence in the overall weather pattern, preventing this winter from being a repeat of the last super El Niño of 1997-98,” Vallee said.
A strongly positive PDO refers to anomalously warm waters off the west coast of the United States.
“The strong PDO contributed to the overall storm track being over Washington and Oregon instead of California, which was much farther north than what was seen in 1997-98,” Vallee said.
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco received nearly twice the normal rainfall from fall 1997 to spring 1998. February 1998 remains the wettest February on record in downtown Los Angeles with a total of 13.68 inches. That is more than double what the city received so far this rainy season.
Before the drier late spring and summer months take hold, a turn to a wetter weather pattern later this week will give California an opportunity to see reservoir levels rise some and the snowpack in the higher elevations further build.
- Title Sentinel-3: better than good
- Released 01/04/2016 10:05 am
- Copyright Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data , processed by ESA
- DescriptionThe new Sentinel-3A satellite recently began providing data from orbit. This very early image recorded on 3 March 2016, takes us over the River Nile and Delta and the surrounding desert areas of northeast Africa and parts of the Middle East.Very distinct is Egypt, a country connecting northeast Africa with the Middle East, home to millennia-old monuments still sitting along the lush Nile valley.In the centre of the image, capital city Cairo with the Nile snaking northwards is clearly visible, along with the Red Sea just further east. Also evident are the islands of Cyprus further north in the Mediterranean Sea and parts of Crete on the very left.
One of the suite of sophisticated instruments that will measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere, Sentinel-3’s Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) measures the energy radiating from Earth’s surface in nine spectral bands, including visible and infrared.
The instrument improves on the capabilities of the Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer carried by the Envisat satellite of 2002–12, including a wider swath of 1400 km, new channels and a partly higher spatial resolution.
Combining radiometer and colour data helps us to understand the state of vegetation better.
Launched last 16 February, Sentinel-3 will systematically measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. It will provide essential information in near-real time for ocean and weather forecasting, among other major applications.
Over land, this innovative mission will provide a bigger picture by monitoring wildfires, mapping the way land is used, providing indices of vegetation state and measuring the height of rivers and lakes, complementing the high-resolution measurements of its sister mission, Sentinel-2.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Χιλιάδες κυβικά νερού ξεχύθηκαν στον κάμπο καταστρέφοντας δρόμους και χωράφια με καλλιέργειες όταν το μεσημέρι της Κυριακής έσπασε το φράγμα του ταμιευτήρα Σπαρμού στον Όλυμπο.
Η ορμή του νερού, μάλιστα, ήταν τέτοια που ξήλωσε ακόμη και το οδόστρωμα.
Ήταν τόση η ορμή του νερού που ξήλωσε και το οδόστρωμα. Στην προσπάθεια να περάσει το νερό Ι.Χ. αυτοκίνητο κόλλησε στο ρέμα και χρειάσθηκε η βοήθεια του δήμου Ελασσόνας με 4χ4 αγροτικό όχημα και κατοίκων της περιοχής για να το επαναφέρουν στο δρόμο.
Όπως ισχυρίζονται οι κάτοικοι που έχουν τα πρόβατά τους στην περιοχή, το φράγμα έγλειφε από μέρες, αλλά κανένας τους δεν ειδοποίησε του αρμόδιους.
The United Nations designates March 22 “World Water Day” and delivers startling news in advance: Within the decade, half the world’s population will be living in areas of water scarcity and two-thirds will be living in water-stressed conditions. Similarly, University of Twente researchers estimate 66 percent of the global population (or 4 billion people) already live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year.
Think the United States is immune to the problem? Think again. According to the Dutch researchers, 130 million people in the U.S., mostly those in western states such as California and southern states such as Texas and Florida, face severe water scarcity at least part of the year. Meanwhile, the World Resources Institute suggests in little more than two decades the likelihood that the United States will face water stress is “high.”
“Water stress” simply means either the demand for water exceeds its availability or poor quality restricts its use. (Think Flint, Michigan, where H2O is on hand, but isn’t clean enough to drink.) When stress occurs, according to the European Environmental Agency, the deterioration of freshwater resources soon follows and this can lead to illness. For example, a quarter of the globe’s population lacks the necessary resources to access anything more than a feces-contaminated source for their drinking water, risking diarrhea, cholera, polio, and other diseases.
To avoid water stress, we need to tackle underlying causes. While worldwide population growth contributes to the problem, other natural and man-made issues also take their toll on resources.
The world’s population, as you probably know, is ballooning at a previously unseen pace. About 200 years ago, the total population was less than a billion — today it is more than 7 billion. Even worse, between 1900 and 2000, the population grew at a rapid clip from just 1.5 billion to 6.1 billion. The rate of growth, then, has picked up speed. While more people roaming the planet will certainly increase water use, the UN says during the last century water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population growth. The fact is, collectively, we are using more H2O than ever before.
A shifting climate also influences the availability of this most precious resource. Weather patterns can alter the cycles of rain, changing the amount, timing, and intensity of precipitation. The problem is not simply insufficient rainfall; in some areas, alterations in the weather cause flooding or a rise in the sea level, which can damage water infrastructure or reduce the quality of water.
“Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon,” says the UN, which calculates the planet’s freshwater resources as adequate for sustaining the current population.
Shortages happen due to waste, imperfect distribution methods, and pollution, though the unexpected may also lead to water problems. Take Flint, Michigan, for example. There citizens suffered rashes, abdominal pains, lead poisoning, and other illnesses when city officials proactively changed the water supply in advance of building a new and improved pipeline. Ironically, the nightmare resulted from good intentions.
The Good News
To focus the world’s attention on these and similar issues, 23 years ago the UN declared the first “World Water Day” and has commemorated it every year since on the same day, March 22. This year’s theme, “better water, better jobs,” emphasizes the role water plays in creating and supporting quality employment around the globe. Already, the UN estimates half the world’s workers labor in water-related sectors. While the intention of the day is to celebrate this precious resource, we might also want to think about possible difficulties we will face in the future.
Paying attention to a problem is the first step in solving it, and water is no exception. In fact, recent statistics suggest awareness of the issues, brought about in part by World Water Day, has helped. Since 1990, a total of 2.6 billion people have gained access to an improved drinking-water source; 4.2 billion people now get their water through a piped connection, while 2.4 billion people access it through another improved source such as public taps, protected wells, and boreholes.
Progress, then, has been made and undoubtedly progress will continue to be made. Still, demand for safe water continues and continues to grow. Why not take one day to appreciate all that you have? Nothing is more vital to your health than precious water: preserve it.
The drought is expected to cut economic growth by 0.6 to 0.8 of a percentage point this year, with predictions of an even more severe impact if the dry weather continues after mid-year, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce says.
The country is facing its worst water shortage in two decades, with 14 out 76 provinces hit and large areas of farm land at risk, adding to the problems of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, which is still struggling to expand.
The drought is expected to last until June, when the rainy season usually begins, costing the country’s about 119 billion baht.
But the damage could reach 154 billion baht if it continues until October, Thanavath Phonvichai, an economics professor at the university, told a news conference.
“It’s more likely that the economy will grow less than 3% this year as exports could contract more than expected,” he said.
The university previously forecast economic growth of 3.0%-3.5% and that exports would be flat, or rise 2%. Exports are worth more than 60% of gross domestic product.
The central bank on Wednesday cut its 2016 GDP growth forecast to 3.1% from 3.5% and reduced its export estimate to a 2% fall from no change.
In 2015, the economy expanded 2.8%, up from 0.8% in 2014 but its recovery remains patchy.
The government has introduced measures to help farmers cope with drought and weak commodity prices amid high household debt. But billions of dollars in government spending aimed at reviving the ailing rural economy have failed to reach farmers, fuelling disaffection with the military government ahead of elections expected next year.
A survey conducted by the university showed that household debt among farmers this year jumped 12.1% from last year to a record 167,000 baht per household on average.
“Farmers can’t shoulder the drought impact on their own and have to borrow to survive. They are hoping for help from the government … What the government will also have to do is create jobs,” Mr Thanavath said.