El Niño delivers more drought to the Eastern SierraMarch 19th, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
Despite a strong El Niño and recent rain and snow in California, drought conditions continue to plague the Eastern Sierra and Mono Lake. As of March 16 extreme and exceptional drought conditions persist in Mono and Inyo counties, a drought that is now in its fifth year. Recent winter storms brought very little precipitation east of the Sierra crest and the outlook for the rest of March looks generally dry.
This means that many precipitation measuring stations east and west of Highway 395 will end up between 40% and 75% of normal for April 1. The one exception and bright spot is Mammoth Pass, where the April 1 water equivalent looks to be very close to 100% of normal. Bishop is the poster child for the rain shadow, where a mere 1.81 inches of water will land at 28% of normal. These are the extremes; most snow and rain gauge locations will probably fall between 37% and 77% of normal.
Gem Pass, the most important snow sensor in the Rush Creek drainage, will end the winter season somewhere close to 75% of normal, while Cain Ranch, near Highway 395 and Highway 158, will greet April 1 close to 50% of normal. Numbers like these nearly guarantee that the level of Mono Lake will drop yet again in 2016.
The drought continues toward the south. Los Angeles, as of March 16, has logged only 7.9 inches of rain, less than half of its typical April 1 amount.
April and May might yet bring meaningful precipitation, but it’s clear that the multi-year water deficit in the Eastern Sierra will continue.