In the midst of a four year drought, California’s limited snowpack promises another dry year in 2015. Mountain temperatures, which claim the hottest October - January period in 120 years, have prevented a snowpack formation. This snowpack typically provides one third of California’s water through meltwater each spring. The statewide snowpack currently holds only one-twentieth of its multidecade average.
The problem is not unique to California. The Pacific Northwest is feeling the effects as well. Washington and Oregon have both seen significantly hotter temperatures than normal this year which is similarly preventing a snowpack from building in Pacific Northwest mountains. Due to the temperatures, that little snow that does accumulate is melting earlier and contributing to the effects of drought later in the season.
The jet stream, a narrow band of westerly circumpolar wind that typically moves cold weather systems from west to east, has been migrating north thanks to a persistent high-pressure ridge off the Pacific Coast. This frigid arctic air plunges south midcontinent, bypassing the western portion of the country, leaving the region in a water crisis.
Limited snowpack and warm temperatures are promising another year of barren croplands, water rationing, and increased pressure on an already stressed groundwater system. The groundwater supply is quickly dwindling and there are seemly no contingency plans in place should the trend continue. Water scientist Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, CA writes, “The situation is extremely bad. We could get a March miracle, but the odds are against it.”
Source: National Geographic