This winter was wetter than usual from California to Minnesota
Much of California and the midwestern United States just had some of the wettest winter weather on record, per data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- The opposite was true in the Pacific Northwest and in parts of Texas and Florida, which were significantly drier than average.
Why it matters: Wintertime precipitation can cause hazardous conditions from blizzards and ice storms, which prevent travel and knock out power — but it can also alleviate drought, especially in mountainous areas that rely on melting snowpack each spring to replenish groundwater supplies.
Driving the news: It's no surprise that several California towns set or came close to setting new wintertime precipitation records considering the frequent strong storms affecting the Golden State in recent months.
- Much of California's precipitation lately has been driven by atmospheric rivers — "long, narrow highways of moisture, typically located at about 10,000 to 15,000 feet above the surface," as Axios' Andrew Freedman writes in this helpful explainer.
- That California is getting so much precipitation is easing concerns about drought there somewhat.
- Still, what's fallen so far is nowhere near enough to fully resolve the water crisis that continues to plague the American West.
Zoom in: Minneapolis had its second-wettest winter on record, with about 6.4 inches of precipitation — around 3.5 inches more than normal (this includes the water contained in snowfall).
- San Francisco had its third-wettest, with a whopping 22.4 inches — nearly 10.4 inches more than usual.
- Naples, Florida, meanwhile, had its driest winter on record, with just 0.95 inches of precipitation — about 3.5 inches below average.
Of note: For this analysis, "winter" is defined as Dec. 1, 2022 – Feb. 28, 2023.
The bottom line: Climate change is raising the odds and severity of precipitation extremes — both heavy rain and snow as well as prolonged and severe dry spells.
- However, it doesn't mean every season, or even every year, will set a new all-time record.