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Jordan Candler / Feb. 23, 2017

California Rains on ‘Settled Science’

From epic drought to bountiful rains. The climate is an unpredictable beast.

Californians are scratching their heads at a seemingly relentless deluge of rain — something that amounted to little more than wishful thinking this time last year. A multi-year drought hit the state’s agriculture system hard, but this winter, to everyone’s surprise, rainfall came. And came. And then came some more. According to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report, “As of February 21, the daily Sierra Nevada snowpack was 186% of average for the date and 151% of the April 1 climatological peak.” Precipitation there is anywhere from 223% to 230% of average.

Do problems continue? Sure. Particularly in southern California, low water levels persist, as noted by the Drought Monitor: “Even though the reservoirs were responding quite favorably, they still have a long way to go before we can classify this area as drought-free.” Nevertheless, the report continues, “With the removal of … D3 [extreme drought], D2 [severe drought] is now the worst drought condition in the state; August 6, 2013 was the last time California had no D3.” Contrast this to last February, when NOAA reports that 61% of the state fell under extreme conditions. Californians waited a long time for this. And depending on who their source was for news, they thought it would never come.

For example, in June 2016, BuzzFeed ran this alarming headline: “El Niño Is Dead And California Could Be ‘In A Drought Forever.’” After underwhelming rains during last winter’s El Niño and the expectation of drier than average conditions typically experienced during La Niña (this season’s episode), the article dramatically foreshadowed what alarmists wrongly predicted was a perma-drought, not unlike what they prophesied for Texas. NASA climatologist Bill Patzert defeatedly stated, “We are in a drought forever. I can’t think of any scenario where we would have six wet El Niño years in a row, which would top out all the reservoirs and the ground water supply.” Apparently, we don’t need to. This year shattered expectations, once again demonstrating how much we still don’t know about the climate.

Of course, California could fall back into another expansive drought. Or maybe this summer’s predicted El Niño will behave like normal and keep the bounty coming for months and years to come. Only time will tell. But recent developments should teach us to expect the unexpected and not fall victim to ridiculous predictions that serve only to advance partisan interests.

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