by Joseph Serna LA Times Dec 2 2016
… if past weather patterns are fulfilled this year, experts say, Northern California’s winter — and long-term relief from years of drought — could be just around the corner for the state’s most important watershed. The Northern Sierra Nevada area has received more than 17 inches of precipitation through October and November, nearly 200% above average for the first two months of the water year, the state Department of Water Resources said. The southern portions of the Sierra Nevada, however, remain mired in drought and are only at 81% of average….
Nov 29 2016 US Drought Monitor
On Nov. 3, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that about a quarter of California was out of drought conditions, the best outlook the state has had since spring 2013, when 64% of the state was considered in “moderate drought” or worse. The U.S. Drought Monitor relies heavily on precipitation levels and soil moisture to assess conditions, state water officials said. Because Northern California’s soil was essentially a dried sponge last year, much of the El Niño rains were soaked up instead of trickling into rivers, streams and reservoirs. But this year the soil is in better condition, so a larger portion of the fall and winter snowpack that melts next spring could end up in reservoirs….
The picture in Southern California, however, remains bleak. A bark beetle infestation that took hold in the southern and central Sierra Nevada during the drought has killed more than 100 million trees and is moving north, increasing the danger of wildfire….