SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Record breaking snow and rainfall since October has drought and forestry experts optimistic about what’s to come, but a wet start to the water season does not guarantee California’s statewide drought will end.
The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab recorded 212″ of snow in December, which totaled 258% of the average snowpack through Dec. 29 and 70% of the average annual snowfall.READ MORE: 49er Faithful Buy Tickets To NFC Championship Game After Rams First Restrict Purchase Options To LA Area
How those numbers and above average totals impact the drought will take more time.
“I think in this case we’re not there yet, we won’t really know how wet this year’s gonna be until, March,” said Jay Lund, Co-Director at the Center for Watershed Sciences and Professor at UC Davis.
Lund said he’s “optimistic” about the wet start to the season, but can’t guess at how the season will continue, only hope.
Hydrologists measure time different than January-December calendar year. Instead, experts that study and document water use the water year, October to September 30. Using the water year as the guide, it’s only just started, which is why experts say things are off to a wet start.
“October was very wet. it was the second wettest October on record, November was pretty dry, it was one of the drier November’s on record, December is being one of the wetter December’s on record,” said Lund.
It’s wetter than average, which totals about 170% of average precipitation this time of year and about 145% of average Northern California snowpack of this time of year, according to Lund.
California is in a multi-year drought, and reservoir levels are low, according to the Lund as published on the California Water Blog. Groundwater levels have been dropping. To undo the impacts of the drought, conditions like this mean there will need to be above average precipitation and runoff.
The precipitation in October and November is positive, but it won’t be enough for experts to determine whether a year is wet or not, but it does hint at what could be next.READ MORE: 'My Life Got Better When I Met Her': Evacuees Engaged After Meeting At Caldor Fire Evacuation Center
“We still have a ways to go to fill up the reservoirs, we have a long ways to go to replenish some of the aquifers from the pumping over the last two years,” said Lund.
Looking ahead, the impacts of the water year will also have impacts on California fire season, that experts hope will remain wet as it started.
“On average the snowpack peaks in about March, if the year turns out to be what I hope it will be,” said Andrew Latimer, a UC Davis Professor who studies postfire forest regeneration.
Latimer said the historic fire seasons in California over the last few years have happened at the same time as the drought. Drier forests create drier fuel that can contribute to historic wildfires.
The snowpack has to last through Spring, ideally, for the best results during fire season, which would mean less-dry forests.
In areas that have been burned by wildfires in the past, Latimer said, a wet water year would encourage regrowth.
“So as far as the resilience goes after a fire, having a wet year like this would be really, could be really helpful,” said Latimer.MORE NEWS: Shelter-In-Place Lifted In Ceres After Fire Burns At Farm Supply Facility
The final word? It’s too soon to tell how conditions will continue and whether the drought will end, but as it stands headed into 2022, precipitation is promising.