What La Nina Means for California’s Drought

The climate pattern could bring very different fortunes for northern and southern parts of the state.,


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A rainy, foggy day in San Francisco in October.Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

For California, the arrival of winter means the beginning of our rainy season, at least relatively speaking.

However much precipitation California is going to receive in a year, the bulk of it typically falls between December and March. And given the severity of our state’s ongoing drought, the amount of rain we get this winter couldn’t be of more importance.

A recent outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that the northern and southern halves of the state may experience diverging water fortunes this winter because of something you may already be familiar with: La Nina.

Like its climatological cousin El Nino, La Nina is a weather phenomenon that originates in the Pacific Ocean but can affect the whole world. La Nina generally means drier, warmer conditions in the southern half of the United States and wetter weather in the northern half.

Scientists predict that La Nina this winter will lead to below average precipitation in a large swath of California, stretching from the Bay Area to the state’s southern border. They expect warmer than average temperatures for Southern California and eastern parts of Central California.

These hot, dry conditions are obviously bad news after our warmest summer on record and before we’ve seen the end of fire season.



But north of the Bay Area, where the drought is most extreme, things look more promising.

The region falls in a “no man’s zone” where past La Ninas have brought a wide variety of fates — warmer, drier, colder, hotter and average winters — Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, told me. So it’s difficult to know how this year will play out.

Yet even with that uncertainty, the climate center predicts that the drought will probably improve north of the Bay Area this winter. The rest of the state is expected to see worsening drought conditions.

These forecasts are based on analyses of what has happened in the past as well as climate models. The important thing to remember is that there are no guarantees.

In the winter of 2016-17, as California grappled with a severe drought, La Nina conditions emerged. Unexpectedly, California got so much rain that, after six years, the state declared the drought over.



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The rest of the news

U.C. strike: More than 6,000 nontenured faculty members at nine University of California campuses plan to walk off the job on Wednesday and Thursday, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The nation’s abortion provider: California is preparing for a surge of patients from other states seeking abortions, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Amazon settlement: The company agreed to pay $500,000 and to be transparent about Covid-19 cases among employees, The Associated Press reports.

Oil spill response: State officials said they were working to improve their response to oil spills in an effort to avoid severe damage, The Associated Press reports.


Hollywood union contracts: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees ratified new contracts with Hollywood studios — but the margin was narrow.

Deaf football team: The Cubs, the varsity football team at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, are undefeated this season, lifting the school and the surrounding community.

California’s top-paid school administrator: James Hammond, the superintendent of the Ontario-Montclair School District, exchanged his sick leave for $167,596 in extra pay, The Associated Press reports.

No more plastic utensils: Customers at Los Angeles restaurants will get plastic utensils and napkins only if they ask for them, under an ordinance that took effect on Monday, The Associated Press reports.


Pandemic: How did the San Joaquin Valley become the land of the eternal Covid-19 surge? The Los Angeles Times reports.


Kaiser pharmacists agreement: The health care network reached an agreement with Northern California pharmacists, The Associated Press reports.

Marijuana license holdup: Growing licenses for El Dorado County marijuana farmers are being held up at the sheriff’s office over background checks, The Sacramento Bee reports.

Chinook salmon return: Though severe weather has challenged the survival of the species, Chinook salmon have returned to Sonoma Creek to spawn, The Press Democrat reports.

What you get

Across California, $1.8 million homes.


Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times

What we’re eating

How to make your Thanksgiving dinner less boring.


Kayaks floating on the Russian River.Credit…George Rose/Getty Images

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Ahna Heller, a reader who lives in Davis. Ahna recommends Jenner, a tiny town on the Sonoma Coast:

“Once in Jenner, my husband and I get a snack at Cafe Aquatica and then launch our tandem kayak into the Russian River and travel up river until we agree it’s time to head back toward the ocean. It’s a beautiful and peaceful journey back to the Pacific; we park the kayak in a safe inlet away from the seals and go for a stroll, taking time to peek into the driftwood hut on Goat Rock Beach.

If it’s a special occasion, we might have a reservation at the River’s End restaurant and enjoy a great meal and the stunning views of the Russian River meeting the ocean. Sublime!”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

And before you go, some good news

On a whim, Mike Pak posted on his Instagram in 2016 about a running club meet-up in Los Angeles’s Koreatown.

Pak had never run before and was astonished when 20 people showed up for the run. He was even more surprised when, at the end, someone asked when the next one would be.

“We looked at each other kind of clueless, and we’re just kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, same time next week,'” Pak told The Los Angeles Times.

Now, the club runs five times a week in Koreatown. And it’s arguably the coolest running club in the city.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Ambitious way to solve a print crossword (5 letters).

Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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