CHICO — This past month has proven to be the second driest January on record for Butte County and there’s no rain in sight.
While last year brought a surprising amount of rain in October and December, 2022 is off to a difficult start for Northern California in terms of drought conditions.
Scott Rowe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office, said a Butte County weather monitoring station in Oroville showed little in the way of precipitation.
“Thus far, during this month, Oroville has only seen 0.09 percent of precipitation, making it the second dryest January on record,” Rowe said. “In 2007 there was only a trace of rain in January. It was one of those drought years. It puts it into perspective how dry this month has been, especially when looking at December and October.”
Rowe said reporting only a “trace of rain” means that there was less than 0.01 percent of the average rainfall.
As far as the long-term forecast goes, Rowe said no rain is expected in the immediate future. He added that Northern California might not get rain well into February.
“Unfortunately, there is no good news on that front,” Rowe said. “It looks like it is going to be dry for the rest of January and for at least the first week of February. Maybe longer. Our forecast models show high pressure over the West Coast which could hinder precipitation chances for the north state.”
While there may not be rain coming, there is a much higher chance of winds developing starting next week.
“We’re not expecting rain but this will be an opportunity for winds on Monday and Tuesday,” Rowe said, adding that fire risk will remain low. “Fuels remain wet enough so if there is going to be a northern wind with minimal impact, this is the time of year for that to happen.”
No rain also means no snow. The California Department of Water Resources, conducted a snowpack survey at the end of December with some promising results showing 78.5 inches of snow which had a snow water equivalent to 20 inches, slightly more than double the average. However, a dry January could mean losing some of that progress.
According to its website, DWR conducts the surveys on the first of each month from January until April and sometimes May.
“There will be no precipitation, period, across Northern California,” Rowe said. “The best chance anywhere near us is probably going to be up in Oregon or Washington state.”
Rowe said short dry spells can be normal, though this one has been much longer than what is considered average.
“One thing to note is that every winter we do dry periods,” Rowe said. “It’s uncommon where we get extended periods of nothing happening in the sky. We had a great October and December and still have half the water year to go. It can switch really fast from wet to dry as we’ve seen already.”
Previous rainfall provided some opportunities for lakes and reservoirs.
Lake Oroville has been showing some signs of slow recovery compared to August 2021 when it hit 643.5 feet, the lowest it had been since 1977.
According to the latest hourly data from DWR, Lake Oroville was measured at 745.11 feet as of 1 pm Friday.
The ongoing drought conditions have created various issues for both the Northern California communities at large as well as agriculture. Glenn County, for example, has been seeing a significant number of drying wells and has therefore enacted programs to help deliver both potable and non-potable water to homes. Many other households have opted to hook up to Orland’s water supply.
Glenn County residents facing water insecurity due to drying wells can report them at countyofglenn.net.
Butte County has implemented its own dry well reporting system at buttecounty.net.
Both Butte and Glenn counties are considered by the state of California to be in a severe drought as of Thursday with a western portion of Plumas County facing the same level.
According to the state’s drought monitor, severe drought is characterized by inadequate grazing land, an increase of water efficiency methods, use of drought-resistant crops, longer fire seasons with higher burn intensity, stressed trees, water temperature increases and decreased river flows.