El Niño is everywhere in the news due to severe weather in Texas, flooding in Missouri and unseasonably warm winter temperatures on the East Coast, all of which have been attributed to this weather phenomenon which is marked by warm Pacific Ocean temperatures near the equator.
|The best way to chill chardonnay in Sun Valley!|
In Sun Valley Idaho, where I spent the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, early predictions were for a "snow drought" with less than average snowfall. It's been anything but a drought there with the most snow I've seen in recent years and residents and visitors alike enjoying near perfect conditions. The Sun Valley Ski Resort set records for attendance during my stay. So far, El Niño has been all good for this part of the country and everyone looks forward to a beautiful spring with green hills and copious wildflowers.
Much of the focus in California has been on how El Niño will affect our ongoing drought. The early part of the season has been good for the Sierra Nevada snowpack which was measured to be 108% of average in December. Things haven't been quite so good for our local water supplies on the Central Coast, which receive very little benefit from snow that falls in the Sierra Nevada. Lopez Lake, which supplies water to our local cities and downstream release for the Arroyo Grande Creek, is at its lowest level since the dam was completed in 1969. Other local reservoirs, including Nacimiento, San Antonio and Cachuma are even lower.
As of December 31, total seasonal rainfall in Arroyo Grande was just over 5 inches, about average for this time of year. All of this appears likely to change as the latest prediction is that El Niño will have a greater impact in our area during the month of January when the jet stream shifts to the south. Hopefully this means accumulating snow in the Sierras and more local rainfall which will refill our reservoirs, recharge our aquifers and turn our hillsides green. This will be good for everything we grow, especially our oldest chardonnay vines, which have really struggled during the drought.
It is widely acknowledged that a single wet year won’t solve California’s long term water supply issues, but it’s better than the alternative. Cheers to rain in 2016!