With several months still ahead in the current water year, the central stretch of the Sierra Nevada is recording its third-wettest year on record, according to officials.
As of Thursday, 68.2 inches of precipitation had been tallied by the five-station index for the San Joaquin portion of the Sierra Nevada, the Department of Water Resources reported. An eight-station index for Northern California had tallied 89.7 inches as of Thursday, breaking that region’s 34-year-old record for precipitation.
Rain gauges for the five San Joaquin stations are positioned at Calaveras Big Trees; Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite headquarters, North Fork and Huntington Lake.
The total for the central region’s water year, which began in October, is 167 percent of the average water year for the area according to the department.
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The current total is third only to those of two other full-year tallies: 1983, when 77.4 percent of precipitation was counted by the five stations; and 1995, when 70 inches were counted.
There is a chance that the San Joaquin indexes will surpass 1995’s second-place position, but approaching the record figure is less likely as we move into a drier part of the year, according to Brian Ochs, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.
“We’re getting to the point now where it becomes less likely to get storms, according to average years. But his year has been anything but average,” Ochs told the Sun-Star.
“It’s probably going to come close. It’s hard to say it’d be the highest.”
Looking at the next 10 days, more rain is expected early next week, with conditions drying out on Tuesday, Ochs said.
In order to surpass the wettest-year record, the central region would need to see significant monsoonal moisture going forward, he said.
“That’s hard to forecast this far out,” he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared an official end to the drought in all but a handful of San Joaquin Valley counties. It also came after the federal government announced that agricultural water contractors south of the Delta will receive a 100 percent water allotment this year for the first time since 2006.
The season’s wet weather exposed the unreliability of long-range weather forecasts. Last fall meteorologists said California might experience a relatively dry winter, courtesy of the La Niña weather phenomenon.
But other than a slightly below-average November, the water year has been wet throughout. After five-plus years of drought, sporadic flooding hit areas of Merced County in January and February. California’s reservoirs are storing more water than they have in years.
The Sierra snowpack is 176 percent of normal for this time of year. However, the state is unlikely to break the record for snow, which was also set in the 1982-83 season. The snowpack reached 63.6 inches of “snow water equivalent” on April 1, 1983. This year, the snow water equivalent was 45.7 inches on April 1.
Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.