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California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar: March 27, 2023

Event Date
March 27, 2023
Event Time
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

According to the March 28 U.S. Drought Monitor, 36.7% of California-Nevada is in drought, with no Extreme (D3) or Exceptional (D4) Drought left in the region. Another series of Atmospheric Rivers are drenching the region, bringing a new round of flooding concerns. Does this mean the drought is over? This webinar provided an overview of current conditions and outlooks, as well as California and Nevada rangeland updates.

The California-Nevada Drought Early Warning System March 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: Amanda Sheffield | NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), CU Boulder/Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)



Drought and Climate Update

Speaker: Benjamin Hatchett | Desert Research Institute

  • The region has had a cooler-than-normal and wetter-than-normal cool season.
    • Exceptional snowpack was built and maintained through water/early spring.
    • Soil moisture is greatly improved/improving. 
    • There has been vast drought amelioration/termination across California and Nevada.
  • Reservoir conditions are favorable overall.
  • Keep eyes out for ‘sunny heat waves’ in the spring (i.e., snowmelt flooding).
  • Drought always looms in a hotter, thirstier world.



Drought and Climate Outlook

Speaker: Nathan Patrick | NOAA/National Weather Service California Nevada River Forecast Center

  • La Niña conditions have ended, and neutral conditions are favored through spring and early summer. Here is this year’s forecast verification discussion.
  • Seasonal April–June outlooks from the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center:
    • Odds favor normal to below-normal temperatures, which is important for managing the melting snowpack.
    • Odds favor normal to below-normal precipitation
    • Drought reduction is expected to continue, except near the Oregon border and California deserts. 
  • See the California Nevada River Forecast Center for forecasts (e.g., water resources index from ensemble forecasts, water year full nature flow volume, forecast date of peak flow/inflow).
  • Other impacts: Flooding is already occurring, such as in Tulare County. Streamflow will be cold into the warmer months, impacting recreation. There could be a potential delay to fire season, but a wetter year’s growth provides potential for fuels.



California Rangeland Update

Speaker: Leslie M. Roche | Associate Professor of Cooperative Extension in Rangeland Management, University of California Davis

  • California rangelands produce ~70% of the state's livestock forage base, a $3 billion annual cattle and sheep industry, and ~80% are privately owned. 
  • Reports from California rangeland managers:
    • North/Northeast: Early in season, greater than normal amounts of snow with saturated soil profiles in valleys, reservoirs filling, Eagle Lake levels still low (long-term trend exacerbated by drought).
    • Sacramento Valley: Low forage productivity, cold temperatures may be limiting growth, soil moisture at field capacity, groundwater levels still recovering. 
    • Sierra Foothills: Soil moisture at field capacity, seasonal creeks flowing, stock ponds full, cold temperatures limiting grass growth.
    • San Joaquin Valley: Variable forage production across monitoring sites (below, similar, greater than prior years), cold temperatures may be limiting grass growth in some areas, seasonal creeks flowing.
    • Central Coast: Soil moisture at field capacity, cold temperatures limiting grass growth.



Nevada Rangeland Update

Speaker: Patti Novak-Echenique | Rangeland Management Specialist, Bureau of Land Management

  • Nevada is the driest state in the nation with four well-defined seasons and terrain that responds quickly to changes in solar heating. 
  • Southern Nevada showing some green-up on the National Phenology Network Spring Leaf Index. Much of the state is still in dormancy compared to drought stressed last year.  
  • Below-normal spring temperatures have delayed spring green-up. 
  • Growth yield equations predict an average to above-average growing season for most of the state.



Q&A and Closing

Speaker: Amanda Sheffield | NOAA NIDIS, CU Boulder/CIRES

  • Register now for the next webinar in this series on Monday, May 22, 2023.