Record warmth has occurred from January to December 2014 (4.1 F for California), and this continued into 2015 with the winter months being the warmest on record for California (4.7 F above normal past 12 months). The past 4 years are the warmest consecutive 48 hours in California on record (2.8 F above normal). The water year 2014-15 received only 40 to 80 percent of average precipitation statewide making it the 4th year in a row of below average, and 2013-14 received much below average precipitation which was the second driest water year in California (1976-77 was driest). The past 48 months or 4 consecutive seasons were the driest period on record for California (deficit of 26 inches of precipitation statewide).
Following December 2014 and February 2015 precipitation this allowed for the most significant green up across the state since 2011, but once these grasses cured it combined with the ongoing historic drought to create above normal fire danger across most of California. To make the situation worse, the state snowpack was measured at an all-time record low of 5 percent on April 1, 2015 which will led to further significant decreases in water supply. Currently, state water supply is 54 percent of historical average capacity (37% capacity). Water supply is nearing all-time lows but remains higher than 1976-77. The combination of below normal precipitation this past year, and the past 4 years combined being the driest on record, have all led to the extreme drought conditions.
Along the Pacific coast sea surface temperature continue to run 2 to 5 degrees above normal and are contributing to the warm coastal temperatures. Across the equatorial Pacific Ocean average sea surface temperatures warmed into the expected moderate El Nino conditions. The resultant weather pattern brought an increased southern storm track to southern California and northern Texas in May 2015. Historically, several El Nino winters have brought normal and below normal precipitation. It is important to note, only the strong phase of the El Nino has been the most consistent with above normal precipitation for southern California.
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