FAIRFIELD — January is a pivotal month for Solano County’s long-missing rain season – and there could be some gray clouds on the horizon.
The county hasn’t seen a run of substantial storms for a full year, since December 2012. It has received only about 5 inches of rain since then at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, about 25 percent of normal.
Local hills are brown. The National Weather Service called a red-flag fire warning in nearby areas a few days ago, usually unheard of for this time of year. Calendar year 2013 proved to be the driest year in the Bay Area since people began keeping regional weather records in 1849.
January is usually the heart of the rain season. It is traditionally the rainiest month of the year, with an average of about 4.8 inches falling in Fairfield, a good chunk of the 19-inch average total.
But there’s a catch this time around – the past three Januarys have been among the driest on record, bringing a total of about 1.1 inches of rain to Fairfield. Solano County hasn’t seen a rainy January since 2010, when it received more than 8 inches.
So, amid historically dry conditions and a run of dry Januarys, January 2014 arrived.
Mike Pechner said a weak weather system might bring a few hundredth inches of rain next Tuesday or Wednesday. Pechner lives in Cordelia Villages and owns Golden West Meteorology.
But it could do more than bring clouds and perhaps a spattering of rain. Pechner said it could weaken the ridge of high pressure that has been in place for a month and a half, keeping away storms. Then a subsequent system could break down the ridge.
Computer models show a more normal storm track developing toward the middle of the month, Pechner said. If so, the recent pattern of wet autumns and dry springs could flip-flop. This rain season may end with a wet spring.
Rain seasons in California are measured from July 1 through June 30.
Gov. Jerry Brown has convened a task force to see if a state declaration of drought is warranted. But Solano County water officials aren’t yet poised to declare a local drought.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Lake Berryessa reservoir in Napa County and the State Water Project’s North Bay Aqueduct in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are the major sources of water for Solano County’s cities. Lake Berryessa is also a major water source for county farms.
Despite the dry weather, Lake Berryessa is 69 percent full. Solano County will not have a water supply shortage this year, Solano County Water Agency General Manager David Okita wrote in a recent report.
The initial allocation for the State Water Project is only 5 percent. But, unless the rainy season remains dry, this allocation should grow, Okita wrote. In addition, local cities will get a slightly higher allocation because of a recent water area-of-origin settlement with the state, he wrote.
For now, rain lovers can only keep their eyes to the sky and hope for gray clouds. They’ve just lived through the driest calendar year locally since California become a state and Capt. Robert Waterman founded Fairfield.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.