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Confidence increasing in forecasted dry winter for Southern California

Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 20:00:05-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - NOAA's Climate Prediction Center released the updated outlook for winter 2020-2021 expectations, and the report shows the increased confidence for a moderate La Nina winter.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Tardy said La Nina winters mean cold water along the equator, which are already present in October. These cold waters can have a domino impact on the globe, including warmer waters in the Atlantic and ultimately a higher risk of hurricanes, and also a more northern jet stream over the west coast, keeping moisture isolated more north and leading to dry conditions in Southern California.

This dry winter coupled with San Diego’s recent weather history could be a recipe for disaster.

The last two winters have been wet in San Diego, with most areas in San Diego County getting 1.5 times their usual rainfall during the most recent winter. This increased moisture helped vegetation grow, then the summer of 2020 brought record-breaking heat, drying that vegetation out. That, coupled with a lack of monsoon moisture in 2020, means there is dry vegetation that could be fuel for fires.

“Any type of fire is going to be a problem in Southern California because the conditions are so dry,” said Tardy.

He added that a new water year just began Oct. 1, 2020, so while the last water year had impressive rain totals, a new year has started.

“So regardless of what happened last winter, we kind of reset now. Now we’re in a whole new year and unfortunately, things are looking very stressed as far as fire conditions,” said Tardy.

He said rain is not out of the question for a La Nina year, but it will be more variable.

Winter is the best time for Southern California to accumulate rain, and with the decreased chances of rain, Southern California could move into drought conditions by the end of the winter.