Although recent snowpack levels show precipitation measurements above normal in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Nevada State climatologist says western and central Nevada still remain in a critical drought stage.
Dr. Douglas P. Boyle offered his analysis at the 2016 Cattlemen’s Update, which was conducted Monday at the Fallon Convention Center. Boyle, who is also a geologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the drought has primarily affected the West, specifically California, western Nevada and eastern Oregon. The recent snowfall in the Sierra, though, has put a small dent in the drought situation for both California and Nevada, yet other factors have figured into drawing up the drought analysis. He said the indicators of drought include precipitation, solid moisture, ground water and water in the streams for diversion.
Boyle said the U.S. Drought Monitor comes out once a week and gives a current snapshot of current conditions.
“Most parts of Nevada have some effect from the drought,” Boyle said as he showed attendees a map of the Silver State with its differing layers of drought intensity.
Although one snowpack measurement showed 136 percent above normal at Lake Tahoe in late December and one earlier this week showed 110 percent at Mt. Rose southwest of Reno, Boyle said a deep snowpack will help fill the reservoirs including Lahontan.
“Many people are excited about the snowpack measurements,” he added.
Based on a scale, the most severe areas in Nevada for drought are in southern Washoe county, eastern Churchill and Pershing counties, western Lander County and parts of Esmeralda County. The second most critical stage, according to the drought monitors, streaks through the central part of Nevada from the border with Oregon to southern Nye County, while eastern Nevada is still experiencing some drought.
Boyle said the summer rains also helped reduce some of the critical drought readings. Not all of Nevada, however, is experiencing drought. Boyle said the extreme northeastern corner of Nevada that borders Idaho and Utah is showing no drought.
“The drought remains, but we have improved,” he said of the state’s designations, “and in northeastern Nevada the drought level has been removed.”
Boyle said the three-month precipitation forecast for Nevada is looking good.
“In my opinion, this is the best we have,” he said, referring to the El Niño weather pattern.
The series of storms battering California this week is showing the strength of the El Niño pattern. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, El Niño — a natural warming of the central Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere and changes weather worldwide — has tied 1997-1998 as the strongest on record. The NOAA cited statistics that go back to 1950. As a result of the El Niño pattern, Boyle said the three-month long-range forecast for most of Nevada is showing precipitation above normal, and the same applies for the three-month temperature forecast.
“We are showing above normal for the West and northern states and below in the South,” he said.
Boyle said the drought monitoring is also beneficial for the Farm Service Agency Emergency Loan and FSA Livestock Forage Disaster programs for Nevada’s farmers and ranchers. The FSA is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The Livestock Forage Disaster program has provided $10 billion in relief from April 2014 to the present,” he said. “There are levels of resources available to people in certain areas.”
Boyle added the Internal Revenue Service uses the drought monitor to determine the replacement period for livestock sold because of the drought.