Hot, dry, not enough snow: Southern California's weather in 2016 in 5 charts

Matt Doll of Santa Cruz cools off under a shower at San Clemente beach. California had it's third hottest year on record in 2016.
Matt Doll of Santa Cruz cools off under a shower at San Clemente beach. California had it's third hottest year on record in 2016.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Listen to story

00:56
Download this story 0.0MB

It was hot, but not record-breaking. It was dry, but it could have been drier. Northern California got more rain than the Southland. Here, we present 2016's weather in five charts. 

1. It was warmer, but it wasn't the hottest year.

2016 is shaping up to be the third warmest in Southern California history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Temperatures were 3˚F above normal. 

2016 was the third-hottest year in Southern California's history. Only 2014 and 2015 were hotter.
2016 was the third-hottest year in Southern California's history. Only 2014 and 2015 were hotter.
NOAA

2. It was also abnormally dry.

Even though Los Angeles has received more than twice as much rainfall in December as normal, all of Southern California is still in extreme or exceptional drought.

60 percent of California -- including the entirety of Southern California -- is in extreme or exceptional drought as of the end of December 2016.
60 percent of California -- including the entirety of Southern California -- is in extreme or exceptional drought as of the end of December 2016.
US Drought Monitor

 

3. Statewide, the precipitation picture is much rosier.

California, as a whole, has gotten above average rain and snowfall so far in 2016.

California has gotten above average precipitation since January 2016 -- just over 3 inches more than normal.
California has gotten above average precipitation since January 2016 -- just over 3 inches more than normal.
NOAA

4. Especially in the places where we get our water.

If you hone in on the Northern and Central Sierra Nevada, where a third of Southern California's water comes from, things look even better. There, precipitation is well above normal for this time of year: 178 and 145 percent of normal, respectively. 

It has been a wet fall and beginning of winter in the Northern Sierra Nevada, where precipitation is 178% of normal.
It has been a wet fall and beginning of winter in the Northern Sierra Nevada, where precipitation is 178% of normal.
California Department of Water Resources

5. But the water is rain, not snow – and that's important.

The bad news is: even though precipitation is well above normal in the mountains, a lot of that has been falling as rain because it has been so warm. So even though precipitation is 178 percent of normal in the Northern Sierra, snowpack there is at just 67 percent

Statewide, California snowpack is just 72 percent of normal for this time of year.
Statewide, California snowpack is just 72 percent of normal for this time of year.
California Department of Water Resources

That's bad because the Sierra Nevada snowpack is California's most important source of water. The snow melts throughout the spring and summer and fills reservoirs like Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta. When it rains in the winter, all the water runs off now, and isn't saved for the dry season.