Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno nearing driest calendar year on record?

How dry is it in Fresno this year? The National Weather Service in Hanford shows the city has 2.32 inches of rainfall since Jan. 1.

It’s possible this could be the driest calendar year on record. I scanned the list dating back to 1878 and found 1917 with 3.91 inches. That’s the lowest one I saw.

The average for November is .64 of an inch. So far, Fresno is still at zero. The average for December is 1.02 inches.

Fresno was not warmest city in nation from January to July

Someone mentioned a story about Fresno being the hottest place in the country between January and July, according to NOAA.

But read the NOAA web site closely. That’s not at all what the federal government is saying.

Fresno is in bright red with the word “warmest” under the January-to-July ranking. It just means this is the warmest January-to-July ranking for Fresno in the last 66 years.

There are much warmer cities in the United States. Click the up-and-down button on the 2013 ranking. You’ll see there were about 25 other cities that were warmer.

Even so, it’s a pretty interesting statistic for Fresno.

But there is one unanswered question I have about this climate ranking. Why does NOAA look at only 66 years of record?

Fresno’s records go back more than a century. I’ve seen National Weather Service statistics on warm months that included months from 1906.

There are plausible reasons — perhaps the monitoring station was moved to its present site 66 years ago. NOAA hints at that by saying these are long-term monitoring stations.

Fresno already has 31 triple-digit days this summer

How hot has it been? Fresno already has 31 days at 100 degrees or higher this year, and the average for an entire summer is 36.

But the heat will have to keep blasting for Fresno to equal last year’s total — 48.  As I have written already, August was very warm last year with 23 days at or above 100 degrees.

There was one other thing I saw in the 2012 numbers that seemed interesting: October had two triple-digit days. I checked October data all the way back to 1996, and did not find a 100-degree day.

I have emailed the National Weather Service in Hanford to find out how long ago there was another triple-digit Fresno day in October.

Hot July, yes, but August 2012 was torrid

The streak of 100-degree-plus days in Fresno came a little early this year, and I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how comfortable July 2012 was in comparison.

It was. But don’t forget about last August. Fresno had 23 days of triple digits in August — 19 of them consecutive.

The all-time record is 21 in a row, set in 2005. Last August narrowly missed it. The 19-day streak was preceded by two 99 degree days. And the two 99-degree days were preceded by three 100-plus days.

If those two 99-degree days in early August last year had been just a little warmer, the new record would have been 24 in a row.

But July 2012 had only 13 days of 100-degree readings. On July 17 last year, the high temperature was 85. That might feel pretty good right now.

It doesn’t rain on June 21 in Fresno — at all

Plan your picnic Friday, you live in Fresno. It’s a good bet you won’t see rain at Woodward Park or anyplace else in the city.

Since weather record-keeping began in the late 1870s, Fresno has never seen rain on June 21.

But that’s not the most interesting part of this trivia. According to the records, June 21 is the only rainless day of the year in Fresno.

In other words, all the torrid, parched days of July and August have seen at least some kind of rain in the last 130 years or so.

“Rain is pretty unusual in the summer for the San Joaquin Valley,” said meteorologist Paul Iniguez of the weather service in Hanford. “But we’ve recorded at least a trace on every day of the season in Fresno, except June 21.”

Iniguez said next month — July — is particularly dry in the Valley. He said there have only been three days since the 1870s when Fresno got more than .10 of an inch of rain. The amounts of rain were .14 of an inch in 1925, .22 in 1992 and .33 in 1913.

“The Valley has a very Mediterranean climate,” he said. “Summers are typically very dry.”

By the way, Friday is the first full day of summer. The solstice happens at 10:04 p.m. Thursday.

2012-2013 wet season might be among Fresno’s 10 driest

Rainfall in Fresno for January through April? It was a kidney stone of a four-month period. It ranks as the sixth-driest on record, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.

It’s a relief that those four months have just about passed, but we have more than just a dry spell here. If there’s little or no rainfall between now and the end of June, this will go down as one of the 10 driest years on record for Fresno.

Those records date back to 1878.

I’ve talked with a few meteorologists who say California is in a drought, though the state has not declared one.

Paul Iniguez of the National Weather Service says: “As a meteorologist, I will say that large areas of the state are experiencing meteorological drought.”

 The state had a dry year in 2011-2012. It looks like 2012-2013 — water year runs from July 1 through June 20 — will be even drier.

Fresno is a good example. It had 8.15 inches of rain last year, about 75% of average. This year, the city has 5.60 inches, about 52% of average for late April.

The snowpack was a bit of a disaster as well. It was 48% of average on April 1. The year before, it was 54% of average.

With reservoirs still close to average — with the notable exception of San Luis Reservoir in western Merced County — the impact of consecutive dry years could be much worse.

But water managers throughout California already are worrying about next winter.

Winter roars back, but maybe not for long

The Yosemite Conservancy’s startling web cam shot of Half Dome this morning told me winter had returned.

But the National Weather Service told me not to count on a wet February.

“I expect another extended dry (temperatures cool to near normal) pattern to set in for the next one to two weeks,” meteorologist Paul Iniguez in the NWS Hanford office.

He said his forecast is in line with the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, which says odds favor a drier than average spring. Iniguez said precipitation for California is below normal.

Ouch.

For those who follow this stuff, check out NOAA’s El Nino-La Nina discussion. El Nino is the warm water phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, sometimes meaning California will be wet. La Nina, corresponding to cooler water, can mean drier, cooler winters here.

Unfortunately, the Pacific is neither Nino, nor Nina this year. It’s tougher to handicap the wet season when neither is present in the ocean.