No drought-buster in the forecast this winter |

No drought-buster in the forecast this winter

by Kurt Hildebrand

A weak El Niño holds little hope that western Nevada will crack the drought which is in its fifth year.

The Carson River hit its low for the year in the first week of September and has been rising slowly since, according to Gary Barbato, Senior Service Hyrdologist for the National Weather Service.

“It could just be cooler weather reducing evaporation, it’s hard to tell,” he said.

It has been 12 years since the river dried up completely for a day Sept. 5, 1992.

Barbato issued his drought statement for Nevada on Sept. 24.

State Climatologist Jeffrey Underwood said he is convening the state’s 13-member drought review and reporting committee to discuss the situation.

“It looks like there might be a chance we will get some normal precipitation this winter, but I wouldn’t hold my breath about it being a drought-buster.”

Underwood said the Sierra blocks most of the precipitation coming from western Nevada, cutting it off from wet flows coming out of the Pacific.

The weak El Niño may provide more precipitation, but it also results in a warmer spring, he said.

“The warmer spring melts the snow quickly,” he said. “We have enough reservoir space to trap some of that water, but I would be remiss if I said this year will break the drought. It would be nice if we could break out.”

Long-range forecasts for December, January and February, traditionally the wettest months of the year in Nevada, predict warmer than normal temperatures stretching from southern Arizona all the way to Alaska.

Slightly wetter weather is predicted through Southern California and Nevada, but Northern Nevada is given an equal chance to go either dry or wet.

“Typically, El Niño brings wetter weather to southern states and dryer weather to northern states,” Barbato said.

Barbato points out that wet summers can indicate a dry winter.

“If you look at the summer, if it is wet at Tahoe, most of the time you will get a dry winter,” he said. “A dry summer is the norm, so you really can’t say anything if the summer is dry except that at least it wasn’t a wet summer.”

On Aug. 25, Gov. Kenny Guinn sought an agricultural disaster designation for all Nevada counties from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Similar requests have been approved for Montana, Colorado and Arizona. Nevada received the designation last year.

Should the designation be approved, qualified farmers would be eligible for low-interest loans.

— Kurt Hildebrand can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 215.