Throughout the fall of 2015, El Niño dominated the weather headlines, with many breathless articles talking about how this El Niño was among the strongest on record and could bring feast or famine across the globe from a weather perspective. Here in the drought-parched West, it was hard not to hope that El Niño would be the answer to our water problems, even though we in the weather community know nothing is as simple as that. There are so many factors at play, so many variables that go into the weather patterns in any given season, that there just are no guarantees.
After a worryingly dry February, March proved to be a wet month across the northern portion of the state. Reservoirs in northern California are filling rapidly, there is talk of rivers nearing flood stage, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range — which provides snowmelt that makes up a vast majority of California's water supply — has received above average snowfall. Still, much of the rest of the state — namely, Southern California — remains fairly dry and our groundwater reserves remain depleted.
There are rumors circulating that the snowmelt from the Sierras will be enough to convince local water boards to lift drought-related water restrictions. Homeowners who let their lawns go brown last summer are talking about replanting their verdant landscapes, and thirsty plants will once again raise water consumption back up to pre-drought levels.
I sincerely hope that the aforementioned rumors are just that—rumors—and that the water boards will have the foresight to keep restrictions in place to prepare for the inevitable dry periods that will come to California in the future. The fact is that California as a state and Californians as a populace need a total attitude change when it comes to water. The reality is that California is in many ways and areas a desert state whose water consumption far outweighs supply. We need to start acknowledging this reality in our attitudes. What it will take to convince the public and elected officials of the importance of preparing for long-term lack of water is anyone's guess. But it is a crucial step for California to take, and I sincerely hope that we will be able to report on the growing awareness of California's predicament in the pages of Weatherwise.
Tempered expectations for California drought relief notwithstanding, El Niño was without question, a factor in weather patterns around the globe in the fall of 2015. A subdued Atlantic hurricane season, record-breaking cyclones in the Eastern Pacific, and devastating floods in Texas are just some examples of unusual fall weather related to El Niño that topped off a year of varied weather across the globe.
In this issue, our edition of Weatherwise's annual almanac for 2015, we take a look back at last year's weather and see how patterns across the globe took shape. From record-shattering snow and cold in New England and the East Coast to a late-season upsurge in tornado fatalities in tornado alley to devastating tropical cyclones across the Eastern North Pacific Ocean, it was an exciting year in weather.