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As stormy weather has moved to the Eastern U.S. over the past two weeks, virtually the entire Western U.S. has gone bone dry. This dry pattern will continue for at least another 10 days across California as a slow moving pattern change begins to bring storms back to the West.
Right now the pattern is locked in place. You can see storms spinning over the Eastern U.S. as the jet stream dives south there. (Image 1)
High pressure holds sway over the Western U.S. (Image 2) You can see a weak cutoff low pressure center near Southern California. That will miss us.
By the last few days of the month, forecast models still see a change. Low pressure will retrograde West according to the Euro model (Image 3), and the GFS as well (Image 4)
The Pacific North American pattern (PNA) supports this, and is forecast to go strongly negative (troughing over West). (Image 5)
In the last few days of January, storms should begin dropping into the Intermountain West. It will likely take longer for us to see any real rain. The GFS ensemble outlook sees a bit arriving by January 31st (Image 6), and the first week of February may be relatively wet (Image 7)
Right now the signals are mixed. There are some signs that the weather may turn dry once again during the 2nd week of February. (Image 8)
The Madden Julian Oscillation, which can help nudge storms into the West Coast, shows little sign (currently) of moving into favorable regions. (Image 9) The purple line is the forecast, the yellow squiggly lines are the possibilities. We’ll cross our fingers.
The jet stream forecast for early February is definitely more favorable for West Coast storms. (Image 10)
Keep in mind, any forecast beyond 10 days is in what forecasters call “fantasyland,” with little reliability. So forecasts can be off in the direction of wet weather as easily as dry.
We’re still doing pretty well, but we do need February to step up with at least normal rain, and a big March would of course be ideal. March is usually almost as wet as February. The Northern Sierra is still running ahead of the average curve. (Image 11)
And, the Russian River watershed is still slightly above average for the date, as are most others in the state. (Image 12)
Clearly, the return of rain is on everyone’s minds. There are positive signs, and long winter dry spells are more the rule than the exception across California. For now we’ll wait, and hope, for a return to wet before the end of January. More updates to come.

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