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2017-18 winter weather outlook is a La Niña. How that will impac - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

2017-18 winter weather outlook is a La Niña. How that will impact our rain potential

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For most of the state of California, last year ended one of the driest stretches in state history. That being said part of Santa Barbara County still is considered to be in a drought. Several years of good rain would be very helpful but this year is a La Niña year. 

October 19th the NOAA issued it’s forecast for temperature, weather, and drought for the 2017-2018 winter weather season. Both observations and computer forecasts suggest La Niña is likely to develop.

Those conditions call for warmer than average conditions across southern states like California. However, on precipitation, the Central Coast straddles the line between dry conditions across Santa Barbara County and equal chances of above or below average rain in SLO county.

Eric Boldt a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Los Angeles says he has his concerns about the upcoming season, “It is pretty rare for us to see back to back wet years. So I don’t want to jinx us but I think we need to be prepared for more dry conditions.”

Brooke Bingaman was working in Sacramento as a meteorologist for the National Weather Service during last year's record winter and thinks people need to be realistic about seasonal forecast expectations, “What we’ve learned in the last two years specifically is that you can’t bank everything on that forecast because in California we can have had a lot of outcomes regardless of what the signal (El Niño or La Niña) is. So in terms of people getting excited about this or not is to stay tuned to the short-term forecast. You can try to predict what is going to happen over 3 to 6 months but that’s really difficult and there is room for improvement in those forecasts.”

The narrative about last year is oversimplified. For much of California, the drought did end but not in parts of southern California including Santa Barbara County with places like Lake Cachuma as visible evidence with plenty of room yet to fill.

Rainstorms don’t care if there is an El Niño or a La Niña. We’ve had dry El Niño years and wet La Niña years. So despite the official NOAA outlook experts, they approach such outlooks with caution especially since last year was such a shock.

Last year was a weak La Niña and for the Central Coast it produced generally between 15-30” of rain, 3-7” more than average. Most experts say it is “highly unlikely but not impossible” that another La Nina could produce more huge rains.

Here is a longer discussion of this year's outlook and how seasonal forecasting is done.

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