(121433)

The great state divide continues. If it is not the Dodgers vs. the Giants—or apples vs. oranges—it’s something else like the weather threatening to further split the quality of life in the Golden State. Rainfall averages in practically every community in Northern California are reportedly at 100 percent or above their historic averages, and reservoirs are steadily filling.But rainfall totals in the South are anemic, and said to be falling further behind as each major storm skips the southern part of the state.

If the trend continues, California may experience two droughts with a mild one in the north that is now barely noticeable, and a severe one in the south that places this area at more risk of strict conservation, fines, fires, smog and increased groundwater pumping.

“We definitely want to see more rain down here. We’re getting behind,” said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Los Angeles.

And it’s a big gap. Up to 12 inches of rain fell in Northern California last weekend, but over the same 72-hour period, the Los Angeles Basin received only 0.02 of an inch of rain. Riverside and San Diego counties saw none. In an average year, the L.A. basin and Bay Area cities receive about the same amount of rain. San Jose, for instance, averages about 14.9 inches of rain in a normal year. The rainfall last week has reportedly placed the region at 134 percent of normal for early February—down slightly from the usual rain amount but equivalent to some 11.58 inches in total since Oct. 1.

Two of the biggest storms to hit Northern California were both “atmospheric rivers,” according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These are the vaunted “Pineapple Express” storms which comprise about half of California’s rainfall every year. These storms tend to be narrow—only a few hundred miles wide—and are a meteorological phenomenon characterized by a strong and persistent flow of atmospheric moisture and associated with heavy precipitation from the waters adjacent to the Hawaiian Islands. As a result, the places that are in the center of where the “express” comes ashore get drenched. Locales a few hundred miles away get nothing.

“Exceptional” drought however, the highest category listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor, remains unchanged throughout the state.

The rainfall in the north has added approximately 500,000 acre-feet of water to California’s four major reservoirs—Folsom, Oroville, Shasta and Trinity. “But even with the rain, some reservoir storage is still terribly low,” said David Simeral, a research scientist with the Western Regional Climate Center. “The rains last weekend in the north were from subtropical storms. And although they brought the first significant precipitation, most of the moisture was rain and had little effect on snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains.”

The majority of California’s drinking water comes from this important snowpack that accumulates in the winter and melts in the spring.