Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Wet or dry this winter? So far, there’s no clue in the ocean

Making a bet about a wet or dry winter this year? Don’t look for El Nino or La Nina to give you an edge. It’s looking like La Nada so far.

San Luis Reservoir has been low this year due to drought and pumping restrictions in the delta;

If you don’t know, El Nino and La Nina are all about the shallow water temperature in the Pacific Ocean around the equator. Nino means warmer than usual — an indication California might have a wet winter. Nina means cooler — a hint that it might be dry.

After two arid winters years and the long, dry summer of 2013, I hear from a lot farmers, city leaders and business folk who want some idea about the winter to come.

But the Pacific isn’t giving anyone a clue this year. Scientists say it is neither warm nor cool. Which means it’s just a coin flip so far, unless things change soon.

I like to follow Jan Null’s web site about the phenomenon.  Null is a private meteorologist in the Bay Area, and you can learn a lot from his page.

Meanwhile, all bets are off when the ocean is in neutral. Will it stay in neutral? NOAA says it looks like neutral conditions will remain for the 2013-2014 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.


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.

Rangers post updates from Yosemite’s majestic high country

Wind-blown New Year’s in Yosemite high country.

On the Yosemite National Park web site, two rangers are writing updates about the rugged high-country winter in Yosemite National Park. It is fascinating if you enjoy reading about the outdoors.

The rangers are a married couple,  Laura and Rob Pilewski. They are wintering over at Tuolumne Meadows, and from their accounts of the experience, they love their jobs.

Here’s what they posted the day after New Year’s:

“Most of our week was spent on Tioga Pass. We saw a very ambitious set of coyote tracks that explored Gaylor Peak ridge all the way down to Tioga Lake though very deep snow. Weasel and pine marten tracks were seen between there and Tuolumne as well. The most notable sighting was a colorful flock of over 20 male (red) and female (yellow-green) red crossbills flying over Dana Meadow at sunset, peacefully ringing in the New Year as they passed overhead.”

For some people, that experience beats Times Square by quite a bit.

But the Sierra at 8,000 and 9,000 feet can be pretty unforgiving in December and January. The latest update says the low temperature two days after Christmas was minus 13.

The rangers stay in a cabin at Tuolumne Meadows, park officials said. They ski back to civilization occasionally for supplies, but mostly they are working — checking utilities, doing wildlife surveys, assisting with measuring the snowpack and watching the park’s buildings in the high country.