May 25, 2018
California's water 'year' nearing a record
Fueled by a parade of “Pineapple Express” storms, California has passed the peak of its wettest water year in 122 years of record-keeping, according to federal scientists.

Between October 2016 and February 2017, California averaged 27.81 inches of precipitation, the highest average since such records began being kept in 1895, according to data released Wednesday by the National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This current water season slightly outpaced 1968-69 (27.34 inches average), when a series of powerful storms in January and February of that rainy season resulted in widespread flooding in Central and Southern California, resulting in at least 60 deaths, according to a federal report.

The statewide precipitation values given by NCEI “represent area weighted average of values observed at weather stations across the state,” according to Nina Oakley, a California Climate Specialist with the Western Regional Climate Center, part of NOAA.

“We’ve had well above normal precipitation throughout California,” Oakley said. “What’s really been a help, atmospheric events have gotten into Southern California, where the drought had really been entrenched. “And the abundant snow pack we’ve seen in the Sierra, where it’s well above normal," he said.

The water year (October through September) record for California is 1982-83, which totaled an average of 40.41 inches, according to the NCEI data.

Driving California’s precipitation totals this year was a parade of “Pineapple Express” storms, a type of “atmospheric river” that gets its name from the plume of moisture coming from Hawaii into California. Pineapple Express storms can be 250 miles wide, 1,000 miles long and carry 20 times as much water as the Mississippi River at its terminus with the Gulf of Mexico.

In a typical year, California has between 10 to 15 “atmospheric river” storms. Since the water season began on Oct. 1, there have been 30 in California, said Marty Ralph, the director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at UC San Diego. (Source: Saan Jose Mercury)
Story Date: March 24, 2017
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