TIME climate change

Some Parts of California May Soon Be Drought-Free

But here's why the state will still need a lot more water

Some parts of California now suffering from drought may soon be relieved, thanks to El Niño-related precipitation expected in the coming months, according to new government forecasts. But the precipitation is unlikely to provide enough relief to the mountain regions that provide most of the water for agriculture and consumers throughout the state.

The forecast, produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows “drought removal likely” in a small swath of the southeastern part of California by October 31. NOAA meteorologists said last week that there’s a 90% chance of El Niño continuing through winter and an 80% chance of it persisting through early spring. If it does, the drought-free area in California could expand along the coast and in the southern part of the state, according to NOAA climate prediction center meteorologist Matthew Rosencrantz.

Read More: How the California Drought Is Increasing the Potential for Devastating Wildfires

Courtesy of NOAA Climate Prediction CenterA small area in the Southeastern part of California, mapped in green, is likely to see drought end by October.
Courtesy of NOAA Climate Prediction CenterA small area in the Southeastern part of California, mapped in green, is likely to see drought end by October.

But relief in those regions will do little to alleviate most of the drought’s worst effects. Most of the water used for consumer consumption and in agriculture comes from reservoirs in the north of the state, and forecasts don’t show those areas receiving a boost in precipitation. In fact, the state’s Department of Water Resources says that in Northern and Central California there’s “almost no correlation between precipitation and El Niño.”

“For northern California and the reservoirs, there’s not much certainty” of relief, says Rosencrantz. “Local agriculture, non-irrigation agriculture, could have a benefit this winter, but for anybody that relies on the aqueducts that come through central California there’s not enough certainty.”

Outside of California, forecasts show the drought expanding, particularly in the north of the country. Montana and Idaho are both expected to see more area affected by the drought in coming months. Puerto Rico, which is already suffering a severe drought, is also expected to see even drier coming months. El Niño is likely at the root of these changes, says Rosencrantz. In addition to increasing precipitation in the Southwest, the climate phenomenon leads to dry spells in northern regions.

TIME weather

The Last Snow from Boston’s Nightmare Winter Has Finally Melted

Worker digs a path through the large snow mounds on Beacon Street during a winter blizzard in Boston
Brian Snyder / Reuters A worker digs a path through the large snow mounds on Beacon Street during a winter blizzard in Boston.

The last snowflake from Boston’s record-breaking winter snowfall has officially melted, according to Mayor Marty Walsh.

Walsh tweeted that a contest he had held to guess when the snow pile would melt had been won. The winner, who remains unnamed, is the lucky recipient of a meeting with Walsh.

The stubborn residue of snow was located on Tide Street. As recently as July 7, the pile — which had, at one point, towered 75 feet high — had garnered commentary from The New York Times, which marveled at its resilience: “… What the mound has lost in stature, it has made up for in sheer endurance,” reporter Katharine Q. Seelye wrote on July 6. “Few predicted it would last this long.”

Alas, a series of 90 degree days won against the snow pile.

The final tally on Boston’s brutal snowfall clocked in at 110 inches.

Read next: The Unsung Heroes of Summer: Beach Bulldozers

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TIME weather

Strong El Niño Set to Bring California Drought Relief

California Drought Water Cuts
Rich Pedroncelli—AP Irrigation pipes sit along a dried irrigation canal on a farm near Stockton, Calif. on May 18, 2015.

For California, the relief couldn't come soon enough

El Niño has strengthened and will likely peak in the late fall and last until the spring, bringing much-needed relief to regions in California affected by drought, federal weather officials said Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said there is now a 90% chance that El Niño will last through the winter and an 80% chance it will last into spring 2016.

“The stronger this event becomes, the more confident that next winter we’ll see stronger precipitation in California and the whole southwestern United States,” said Mike Halpert, an official at NOAA.

In previous strong El Niño events, California has seen a 150% to 200% increase in rainfall compared to average years, according to Halpert. Peak rainfall during El Niño typically occurs in late fall or early winter. At the same time, parts of the U.S. located far from the Western seaboard may experience a decline in precipitation.

For California, though, the relief couldn’t come soon enough. The state received the least precipitation in decades in 2014, following years of similarly low rain levels. Still, despite the strong predictions, Halpert says it’s worth withholding excitement over the storm. “There’s still a little ways to go before we get to where this event should peak,” he said.

Read More: Why Some California Cities Are Bracing for a Bear Invasion

TIME weather

Yes, the U.S. Really Did Have a Damp Start to Summer

Large areas saw up to six times the average rainfall in past 30 days

Early summer typically marks the start of the dry season across much of the United States. But that’s far from the case across vast swaths of the country this year, a new map from the National Weather Service shows.

us weather precipitation
Courtesy of the National Weather ServiceAreas in red experienced considerably less precipitation in the last 30 days than average. Blue and purple regions experienced up to six times the average. Red regions received a small fraction of the typical rainfall.

The map compares data collected over the past 30 days from local weather centers with local averages from the same days collected over the past 30 years. Purple and blue regions received at least 1.5 times the average rainfall in the last 30 days — and the map shows large parts of the Northeast and Southwest much wetter than average.

But other regions received very little rain, like drought-stricken California and Washington, which sweated through a heatwave in late June. Very few regions received an average level of rainfall.

Dan Petersen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, described the trend as “unusual.” “It’s just been striking—instead of just being part of a season, we’ve had multiple seasons of this trend,” he said.


TIME weather

Tornadoes Sweep Across Midwest, More Severe Storms Predicted

Central Illinois Severe Tornados midwest
Jon Durr—Getty Images The scoreboard at Coal City High School's football field is left damaged after a tornado struck the previous day on June 23, 2015 in Coal City, Illinois.

13 tornadoes were reported across four states

Five people were rescued from a campground as tornadoes swept across the Midwest overnight, with almost 50 million more Americans under the threat of further damaging thunderstorms on Tuesday.

Winds of 122mph were recorded in South Dakota and baseball-sized hail fell in Indiana as the severe storms ripped up trees and power lines.

In total, 13 tornadoes were reported across four states, the Weather Channel reported. In Illinois, where at least one twister was confirmed by the National Weather Service, more than 15,000 customers were without power.

The storm system was moving swiftly towards the Northeast Tuesday, forecasters said, with…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Earth Just Had Its Warmest Spring on Record

People gather in in Central Park as temperatures in Manhattan hit 90 degrees F (32C) for the first time in 2015, in New York City on June 11, 2015.
Kena Betancur—AFP/Getty Images People gather in in Central Park as temperatures in Manhattan hit 90 degrees F (32C) for the first time in 2015, in New York City on June 11, 2015.

It was officially the warmest May ever, too

This year is shaping up to be a hot one—literally.

This past May was officially the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a new report. What’s more, researchers say Earth experienced the warmed spring and first five months of the year on record, too. Land and sea temperatures across the globe were higher than the agency has ever recorded in more than 130 years.

Last month was 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit above the average worldwide of 58.6 degrees, the agency said. And the spring averaged 1.53 degrees above the the typical temperature. In the U.S., May turned out to be the country’s wettest month on record.

TIME weather

U.S. Sees Wettest May on Record

Flooding Texas bridgeport
Max Faulkner—Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty Images Flood waters surround the Bridgeport Building Center in Bridgeport, Texas, June 1, 2015.

The contiguous U.S. saw record precipitation totals for the month of May

This May was the wettest on record for the contiguous United States, according to federal weather data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports 4.36 inches of rain fell on the contiguous U.S. this May, 1.45 inches above average and the most rain the administration has recorded for the month of May in 121 years.

The total precipitation that fell in the spring was 9.33 inches, making it the 11th wettest spring on record for the contiguous U.S.

Severe weather events and heavy rainfall across the U.S. have contributed to the uptick in precipitation. Fifteen states had totals well above average, including Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado which each suffered severe flooding. However, seven states along the East Coast had lower than average levels of precipitation.

About 24.6% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought according to a June Drought Monitor report, an improvement across the board though many states in the West, Northwest, Southeast and Northeast have seen drought conditions worsen.

So far, 2015 has brought a number of record-setting months weather-wise. January through March 2015 was the warmest first three months of the year on record across the globe. In the contiguous U.S., this January to May has been the 17th warmest in the 121 years that the NOAA has tracked temperatures.

TIME weather

Hurricane Blanca Is Now a ‘Major’ Category 3 Storm

hurricane blanca
National Hurricane Center

The severe storm is expected to dump up to 5 inches of rain on much of Baja California Sur

Hurricane Blanca intensified off the Pacific Coast of Mexico early Saturday and has been upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane packing 120 mph winds, forecasters said.

A new Tropical Storm Warning was issued for the coast from La Paz to Santa Fe, including Cabo San Lucas, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect from Cabo San Lucas to Santa Fe, the National Hurricane Center said in an overnight update.

It said Blanca had become a “major hurricane” again.

The severe storm is expected to dump up to 5 inches of rain on much of Baja California Sur and the southern portion of Baja California when it hits later in the weekend, the NHC said…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News


TIME weather

Colorado Battered By Hail, Heavy Rainfall, and Tornadoes

Colorado Tornadoes
Dan Elliott—AP In this frame from video, a tornado moves through Longmont, Colo., June 4, 2015.

Reports of hail the size of grapefruit

Hail the size of grapefruit, heavy rainfall, and several tornadoes caused damage and flooding across parts of the Rockies and Plains overnight into Friday, officials and meteorologists said.

Seven tornadoes were reported in Colorado and one in Kansas, according to the National Weather Service.

At least three homes were demolished in the town of Berthoud, 40 miles north of Colorado, the Larimer County Office of Emergency Management said. The Associated Press reported there were no injuries.

Crews were checking reports of 25 other homes in the area that were possibly damaged or destroyed, the AP added, but they were hindered by bad …

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Economics

El Nino Could Cause Serious Trouble Across Asia

Aerial view of a flooded area in Trinida
Aizar Ralder—AFP/Getty Images Aerial view of a flooded area in Trinidad, Beni, Bolivia on Feb. 24, 2007. Authorities say two months of rain and floods left 35 people dead, 10 unaccounted for, and affected hundreds of thousands of people. The disaster, blamed on the "El Nino" weather phenomenon, also has caused millions of dollars in material losses.

Bad weather on the horizon

You may recall a time in the mid-1990s when American citizens were worried about El Niño, the tropical weather pattern that can cause global changes in temperature and rainfall. Now, according to a new Citigroup report, the next group to pin concerns to El Niño may be bankers.

The report, produced by Citi analysts Johanna Chua and Siddharth Mathur, suggests that the current El Niño (the weather anomaly takes places at unpredictable times, sometimes more than five years apart) could have a deleterious effect on economies in countries in and around Asia.

India, Thailand, The Philippines, and others, where agriculture contributes a major percentage of GDP, might see inflation in food prices, since a severe El Niño can brings dry spells and cause crop damage. In Indonesia, for example, the agriculture sector makes up more than 50% of overall employment.

In economies dependent on farming, long-lasting weather that upends crops will naturally impact farming output, and thus commodity pricing.

With these countries especially vulnerable to economic disruption, it may be more bad news that recent reports indicate we are about to see a particularly violent El Niño.

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