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LA Got Some Rain, But We Could Be In For A Dry Winter

The Hollywood sign during a rain storm in 2017. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Finally! After a crazy hot fall, bone dry conditions and extreme fire weather, we were finally visited by the rain gods this week, bringing a small burst of precipitation and cooler temperatures.

About three quarters of an inch of rain fell across parts of L.A. County, while 8-16 inches of snow landed on Mount Pinos above Ventura.

Does that mean we can exhale and chill about wildfires for a while?


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"It definitely moistened things up, so fire weather concerns are in the low for now," said Keily Delerme, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

But, she said, "One storm won't make a big difference."

That's because it's been phenomenally hot and dry.

"It is virtually certain that 2019 will end among the five warmest years on record," said Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about the broader U.S.

Last year, we got nearly double the amount of precipitation that we normally do in some parts of California before the weather dried up in late spring. It was so abundant that the entire state finally recovered from drought conditions. They now appear to be back. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

In Southern California, temperatures this summer were less hellish than the last, but it warmed up through fall when it should've started to cool off. Between September and October, L.A. County experienced temperatures two degrees higher than the historical average. November in Downtown L.A. has been about four degrees higher than average.

Unsurprisingly, hot and dry weather's meant fire. After the rains brought a ton of grass growth in the mountains, fuels dried to dangerously low levels and what felt like non-stop wildfires broke out across California.

All of that moisture that was just dropped on us will quickly dry up if fall trends continue.

Santa Ana winds are expected to hit from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, though another rain storm could roll through next week.


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Forecasters can't predict weeks and months into the future, especially when it comes to rain.

However, one of the key things they look at is whether El Niño or La Niña might be on the way. They're not perfect predictors of rainfall - we've had dry winters in El Niño years - but they offer some sort of insight into what could happen.

Right now, neither is anticipated.

Which is to say we could have a wet or dry winter, though NOAA is leaning towards dry, according to their latest climate update released Thursday.

NOAA's December, January and February precipitation outlook, issued November 21, 2019. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Much like the past several years, above average temperatures are expected to continue.

NOAA's December, January and February temperature outlook, issued November 21, 2019. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

It's frustrating not to know what's coming, especially when we've all got water anxiety after repeated pernicious droughts. But the difference between a dry and a wet year could be a handful of atmospheric rivers.

Which means things could change in a big way, fast.

Fingers crossed.

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