Dry January to Continue Through Foreseeable Future

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Similar to last year, this year is off to a rough start weather wise. The pattern has been mostly dominated by strong ridging over the southwestern U.S. and eastern Pacific, and long range models show this pattern continuing indefinitely, on a fairly consistent basis. Over the last couple of days and the next few, a train of Pacific storms will continue rolling into the Pacific Northwest, including far northwestern California. Interior California won’t see much, though, if any as the fronts decay and collapse on their trip south. The increase in moisture will keep fog development possible in the days ahead, but an increase in offshore flow develops Monday onward as a surface high develops off the coast and a trough digs into the Great Basin, tightening the gradient and driving dryer, cooler air into California.

MODIS Terra satellite imagery from this morning, depicting a blanket of valley fog and overrunning higher-level cloud cover.

By later next week, high pressure begins shifting inland, pushing the cooler air in the Great Basin out and allowing things to warm up. It appears this warmup could be quite significant, with temperatures potentially climbing into the 70s in the lower elevations and parts of the foothills Friday into the weekend. In addition to the warmth, the pressure gradient could tighten further as surface ridging strengthens in the interior Pacific Northwest. This could bring a boost in winds perhaps next weekend or early the following week, but models aren’t in the best agreement of a trough that digs extremely negatively into the southwestern U.S., essentially rubbing against the ridge in the northwest.


Temperature wise, the ECMWF is currently the warmest model, indicating a peak in temperatures next Sunday, with highs ranging from low to mid 70s in much of valley, to upper 70s to even 80s in some warmer valley locations, and up in the foothills, some parts of the coastal mountains, and the Napa Valley. These temperatures would be 15 – 25 degrees above normal and likely break many records if these still relatively far-out model indications are correct. These warm temperatures combined with potential offshore winds could also speed up the vegetative drying process. It’d likely take a few more warmups and offshore wind events to thoroughly dry out vegetation to increase fire danger significantly, but this would unfortunately begin a start to that.


Map of below normal 7-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the day of year – USGS

Drought wise, another dry to nearly dry January isn’t good, as most would expect. Over the last week, much of northern & central California has received 0 to 5% of average precipitation. The southern California desert is one exception due to a trough/cutoff low earlier in the month, but is about the only exception. As said above, models aren’t painting a very pretty future so far. There’s pretty high certainty among models that the next ten days will be dreary, but looking way out toward the end of the month and early February lies a slight glimmer of hope: some super long range ensembles show a pattern change (of the wetter sort), while others keep the dry/warm pattern ongoing. Wouldn’t put much into any solution yet of course, but just goes to show the future isn’t totally certain, which I suppose could be a good thing.


Last 7 days % of average precipitation – California Climate Data Archive

In any case, I just wanted to post this quick update for the information itself, and just to make sure everyone knows I’m still around and just awaiting something good to write about weather wise (which has become hard to come by again). It’s extremely unlikely (as I stated last year) that this will continue for too long. We’ll get a storm, or storms at some point. Hopefully many wet ones, but we shall see.

  • Doug Borchert

    Thanks for all the good information. I hope things change. Drought wise looking grimj

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