Federal forecasters today proffered a 73 percent chance that, overall, California will see at least average precipitation this winter. However, the auspices favor the Southland more than Northern California, where most of the state's largest reservoirs are located.
It's the first time since 2011 that the federal Climate Prediction Center's three-month outlook favored average or above-average precipitation for any portion of California. As a testament to the persistence of the current drought, the last time the CDC issued an outlook predicting average-or-better precipitation for the entire state was November of 2009.
Scientists still have low expectations for the warm-water conditions in the Pacific known as El Niño, which might wring more rain and snow out of the atmosphere. They say there's about a 60 percent chance of a winter El Niño -- but it's likely to be a weakling, not the rainmaker that is the stuff of California legend.
"Given such a severe California drought, normal precipitation would likely improve (not eliminate) the drought," CPC meteorologist Dave Unger explained in an email. "So that is the reason for the optimistic drought outlook."