It's a big question. Talk to anyone who works on the land in Southern California and you'll hear discussion of El Niño, rain, winter, drought, scientists who can't agree-- and so on.
I set out to get to the bottom of it last month for the Ventura County Reporter, and (dare I say) succeeded as well as could be reasonably hoped. Not that the comments on the piece reflected that: any mention of cllimate change brings out the cranks, I guess. from the chemtrail people to the deniers.
But the real news is that in the short-term, the consensus looks decent. We will have rain this winter, scientists agree.
What's troubling for SoCal is the long-term prediciton -- increased dryness. Yikes.
Here's the start: I'll put the kicker below the fold.
The last 12 months (from September 2013 to September 2014) have been hotter than any other 12 months in the 113 years that reliable temperature records have been kept in California, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The last three “water years” have also been the driest such period in the state’s history, NOAA says. The term U.S. geological Survey “water year” in reports that deal with surface-water supply is defined as the 12 month period for any given year through September 30 of the following year. As a result the entire state is in drought, and Ventura County — like all of the central coast of the state — is in category 5, or “exceptional drought,” the worst of all possibilities.
[here's an image drawn from data collected by the pair of satellites known as GRACE, which shows how California is drying out as the level of available water below ground sinks]