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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Rain or fizzle? California preps for first storm of season — maybe

Even as a storm system parks itself off the California coast, weather models continue to disagree on how much rain and snow will fall across the Golden State.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — California may see the first widespread rain event of the water year, although how much rain and snow will actually fall — and where — is a question that has so far eluded forecasters.

A low pressure system moving south from the Gulf of Alaska will bring cooler temperatures and moderate rain Tuesday through Friday throughout the Golden State, forecasters say. But the atmospheric river they once thought would set up shop off the coast of California appears to have fizzled.

For the central and northern coast, the National Weather Service Bay Area predicts periods of moderate rainfall starting Tuesday morning. However, the area will likely see 1.5 inches of rain or less during the week as the system has slowed down and weakened. Coastal mountain areas have a better chance of seeing closer to 2 inches of rain this week, particularly Sonoma County and parts of Big Sur on the Central Coast. 

Precipitation will be much more scattershot in the interior part of the state through Saturday. The weather service’s Sacramento office predicts widespread showers in the valley at times, although how much rain is coming and when it might fall remained unclear as of Monday — as is the case for the Central Valley as well.

The mountains may see snow, likely beginning Tuesday near Lassen National Park and spreading south by Thursday. Up to 3 inches of snow is expected region wide, although Lassen could see up to 7 inches.

“There is high confidence that wet weather will occur across much of the area during this period, but there is a lot of uncertainty with timing and how much precipitation will occur,” forecasters for the valley said in a discussion released Monday. 

Much of the state will again see dry skies and moderate temperatures by Sunday.

After years of drought, California entered the water year drought free. Several late-season storms helped improve the state’s soil moisture, as did lower temperatures, higher humidity and more cloud cover this year. Scientists say they are cautiously optimistic that there could be a slightly wetter winter in the state’s outlook this year given the formation of strong El Niño conditions, but it is very difficult to predict atmospheric river events and their timing. 

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Categories / Regional, Weather

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