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La Nina May Be Building In Pacific, Potentially Opening Door For New Round Of Drought

After five years of drought, California finally had some substantial rainfall.  But, researchers say some new drought conditions may be developing.

With the water year set to officially end this weekend, much of the Central and South Coasts will end up with 110% to 150% of average rainfall. While it was good news for much of the region, it wasn’t a drought buster everywhere.

It wasn’t nearly enough to recharge depleted groundwater basins, or to refill key reservoirs like Lake Casitas. Ron Merkeling is with the Casitas Municipal Water District. He says despite all the attention over the statewide drought ending, some areas, like Lake Casitas, are still very much in drought conditions. He says the lake is currently only at 38% of capacity.

And, calls for conservation may once again become widespread throughout the region, because the latest look at ocean temperatures shows there is a 55%-60% chance we will have a La Nina pattern this coming winter, and spring.

La Ninas are the opposite of El Ninos. Cooler ocean water temperatures can lead to lower than average rainfall.

Dr. Bill Patzert is an oceanographer with the California Institute of Technology’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena. He says there are early indications of a La Nina pattern. He calls “La Nina” the diva of drought, with the potential to throw rainfall seasons off track.

Patzert says regardless of whether the pattern develops, the reality is that drought conditions are becoming the norm for our region, and we need to think of water conservation as a lifestyle. While the latest data is leaning towards a La Nina, it’s still too soon to say for sure.

Experts do say even if one develops, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will see less rain on the Central and South Coasts, although it certainly increases its likelihood.