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What do La Nina conditions mean for precipitation in San Diego and California?

While we are entering what’s considered our rainy season, San Diego is also heading into its third year of the drought.

SAN DIEGO — As of October 1st, the rain calendar was reset and we are officially in the rainy season now through April. But La Nina is still in place for the third year in a row with its cooler sea surface temperatures, something that rarely happens.

While we are entering what’s considered our rainy season, San Diego is also potentially heading into its third year of the drought, the state of California is in its fourth year of the drought and it’s the third year in a row of La Nina.

"2020 to 2021, 21 – 22… two back-to-back years, water years that were about 60% of average,” said Alex Tardy a Meteorologist with NOAA National Weather Service, who added 2018 to 2019 was even drier.

"It was very dry. I think it was top five in terms of dry. We've been on a roller coaster,” added Tardy. "It's still the same magnitude, same intensity, and the reason that has some importance is it influences ocean temperatures and our weather, especially our rainy season."

Why that matters is that a La Nina can shift the storm pattern and leave much of California out of the storm track. And since most of our water comes from rain and snow in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains that can be a huge problem to the water supply.

"So, the stress on the water supply, where we're getting it all, Colorado and Northern California is much greater than just two years,” said Tardy.

The hard part about a La Nina is forecasting weather patterns.

"2010 - 2011 was a similar La Nina as we're dealing with right now in the ocean. It was one of the wettest years in the Sierra Nevada. One of the snowiest on record 2010 – 2011,” said Tardy.

However, the current models say different.

"And the model guidance, 60 to 90 days out, they are all indicating much higher odds of a drier than normal for most of California,” added Tardy.

For the Colorado Basin, where 60% of our water comes from, the outlook is much better with an equal chance for average precipitation. For Tardy he prefers to look at the glass half full when it comes to California and San Diego, saying:

"There's still a 30% chance we could still see normal precipitation, we'll take normal."

Watch Related: How San Diegans can help fight the drought

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