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California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar: January 23, 2023

Event Date
January 23, 2023
Event Time
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

According to the January 17 U.S. Drought Monitor, 95.4% of California-Nevada is in drought. But as a series of atmospheric rivers drenched the region, the immediate threat turned to flooding. But what does that mean for the drought? This webinar provided an overview of the current conditions and outlooks, a demonstration of the WestWide Drought Tracker, and perspectives on the current drought from the California and Nevada state climatologists.

The California-Nevada Drought Early Warning System January 2023 Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar is part of a series of regular drought and climate outlook webinars designed to provide stakeholders and other interested parties in the region with timely information on current drought status and impacts, as well as a preview of current and developing climatic events (i.e., El Niño and La Niña).


Welcome to the California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar

Speaker: Julie Kalansky | California-Nevada Adaptation Program (CNAP, a NOAA CAP/RISA Team), CW3E, Scripps Institution of Oceanography



Drought and Climate Update

Speaker: Julie Kalansky | CNAP, CW3E, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

  • Much of California-Nevada is above 150% of normal precipitation for this time of year.
  • Nine atmospheric rivers between December 26 and January 19 brought between 30 %–75% of water year total precipitation during these three weeks. 
  • Snowpack is over 200% for this time of year and over 100% of the April 1 median for many basins in California-Nevada.
  • Soil moisture has increased by 5 to 35+ percentiles in the last month.
  • Deep soil moisture (100 cm) has also ticketed up.
  • Reservoirs are filling up.
  • Did the atmospheric rivers bust the drought? 
    • The recent set of storms substantially mitigated many drought impacts. It is too soon to tell full impact on the ongoing drought.
    • How much more precipitation and when will it come? 
    • How much of the snowpack will transition to run off?
    • Groundwater recharge is uncertain.
    • We can easily slip back into drought—always need to be planning and prepared.



Drought and Climate Outlook

Speaker: Joseph Casola | Western Region Climate Services Director, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information

  • Outlooks:
    • The Climate Prediction Center's 8–14 day outlook shows elevated chances for cool and wet conditions.
    • The monthly (February 2023) and seasonal (February–April) outlooks show “equal chances” of above- or below-normal temperature and precipitation for the region.
    • The seasonal outlook did not provide much information about recent atmospheric river (AR) events…but week 2–3 forecasts did provide indication of wet conditions/AR activity.
  • Streamflow and Drought:
    • Streamflows are forecast to be much above average in much of the region.
    • Drought conditions are forecast to improve in the northern portion of region; drought is forecast to persist in southern California and much of Nevada.
  • El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
    • ENSO-neutral is expected to emerge in late winter/early spring.



Westwide Drought Tracker Demonstration

Speaker: Justin Chambers | Western Regional Climate Center, Desert Research Institute

  • Access the WestWide Drought Tracker.
  • With help from NIDIS and the California Department of Water Resources, we are working on redesigning and redeveloping the WestWide Drought Tracker.
  • Phase 1, which is nearing completion, involves rebuilding the map products on the site.



State Climatologist Perspectives on the Current Drought

Speaker: Michael Anderson | California Department of Water Resources

  • Water Year 2020–2022 was the driest 3-year stretch in observed record, dating back to 1896 for statewide precipitation.
  • Dry expectations for WY2023 with a "triple dip" La Nina.
  • Things changed quickly after Christmas. 
  • The region was hit with 9 atmospheric rivers (ARs) in 3 weeks: 1 Exceptional, 4 Strong, and 4 Moderate.
  • 80% of a full seasonal snowpack was deposited in the 3 weeks of storms
  • Statewide average precipitation over 3 weeks was 11.2 inches, which is 46% of a full water year.
  • 8 new floods of record.
  • Lingering drought issues:
    • Shortage in the Colorado River Basin.
    • Shasta Reservoir still 418,000 acre-feet below average storage.
    • San Luis Reservoir 70% of average storage.
    • Still waiting to measure groundwater gains.
    • What happens until April 1?
    • Follow conditions at California Water Watch.



Steph McAfee | Nevada State Climate Office

  • Drought in Nevada: Are we back to normal yet?
  • The snowpack looks great so far throughout most of the state. 
  • We started the calendar year with many reservoirs in not-so-great shape.
  • From a drought perspective, things are better, but there are long-term deficits and challenges that one good winter won’t fix.



Q&A and Closing

Speaker: Julie Kalansky | CNAP, CW3E, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

  • Register now for the next webinar in this series on Monday, March 27, 2023.