A group of people sit perched near the edge of a cliff at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz on Saturday evening, 20 February 2016. California is going through a long dry spell this winter, but that's not unusual even in El Niño years. Photo: Fred Arellano / Vintage Rock Photography

By Paul Rogers
22 February 2016

(Santa Cruz Sentinel) – Even in the midst of a strong El Niño, California’s sunny weather this February is not surprising, experts say: The longest dry spell this month — 14 days — is actually less than the average for a strong El Niño winter.

But state water officials said Monday that unless the rainy weather returns with a vengeance, some drought restrictions are likely to continue this summer.

“It’s already a less dire situation, given the precipitation we have received so far this winter,” said Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager for the State Water Resources Control Board.

“But it would have to rain almost every day — storm after storm after storm — in March for there to be no drought rules this summer.”

Gomberg, whose agency last year imposed mandatory water conservation targets on hundreds of cities across California, with fines for violators, under orders from Gov. Jerry Brown, said state water board officials plan to decide in mid-April whether the rules should continue for another year.

“We’re watching the weather reports like everyone else,” he said. “There’s no way to say definitively yet. If we didn’t get any other storms this winter, we’d still be in a world of hurt. If we have a very wet March, then everyone can rejoice. But the winter’s not over yet.”

This winter already is the best in five years, since 2010-11, for rain and snowfall in California. […]

In most past strong El Niños, Southern California has received lots of rain and Washington and Oregon have been dry. This winter, for reasons meteorologists are not certain of, Southern California has been dry, and the Pacific Northwest has received record rainfall.

“All El Niños are different. There is a lot of variability,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga. “This is going to end up being one of the outliers.” […]

“We’re selling a lot of flowers and grass seed,” said Andrew Broderson, manager at Wegman’s Nursery in Redwood City. “It’s hard to complain when it is 73 degrees out, but we have people saying ‘I know I shouldn’t be enjoying this weather, but I am.’” [more]

El Niño: Summer drought rules likely to continue

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