Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have reported that a La Niña weather pattern is likely to continue this summer, which will bring higher than normal rainfall and warmer temperatures.
Dr. Michael Anderson, NOAA’s chief of oceanic and atmospheric sciences, said this season’s La Niña, also known as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is expected to develop before July 1, 2018.
Anderson said the current ENSO pattern is “regional, not intense” and last occurred in 2016.
“We’ve been talking about something slightly different than that,” Anderson said. “We have some theories and just the historical understanding that suggest that if this event is weak, it doesn’t have any impact across California and we’ll continue to see drought problems, but if it develops, that could change things for California.”
Despite elevated water levels in Northern California, Anderson said that these water levels will not be enough to improve the situation in the state.
“As you enter into the wet season, the water in Northern California, because of sea level changes and the delta, we can’t pump the water out of the delta that much from the north,” Anderson said. “So what we’ve had is some elevated storage in Northern California, which, as you know, is critical for agriculture in the northern part of the state.”
Jeff Seyler, a member of the American Meteorological Society, told USA Today the La Niña pattern could present an opportunity for California to avoid some of the effects of the current drought.
California’s ongoing drought has caused 43 deaths from a lack of water, and it has led to an expansion of wildfires across the state. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported that approximately 105 million acres have burned since the drought began, and the agency said June was the most destructive month since record-keeping began in 1932.
“We’re sort of in this state of limbo where we’re trying to decide whether to stay on hold and let the conditions improve, or whether to move in,” Seyler said.
Hannah Bridges, California Department of Water Resources, said the state is not in the midst of a drought emergency, and the drought is not expected to dry up within the next week.