Western Nevada not in a drought yet, but it’s getting close
Even though two-thirds of Nevada is now listed as “abnormally dry,” experts say that doesn’t mean we’re in a drought.
“We’re not at the point where there’s cause for alarm,” said David Simeral, a climate scientist at the Desert Research Institute and Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.
Simeral is one of 11 experts nationwide who reports on drought conditions to the U.S. Drought Monitor headquartered in Nebraska.
Abnormally dry is the official term for conditions that are close to becoming a drought but not there yet.
“That isn’t drought but things are pretty dry here over the last 30 days,” he said.
Mark Faucette, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Reno, said it’s a concern because, “we’re normally going into what would be considered the wet part of the year.”
Simeral made the same comment saying western Nevada gets “the vast majority” of its precipitation from October through about April and there was no precipitation here in October.
“There’s been no measurable precipitation in the month of November either,” said Faucette.
“Fortunately, temperatures have been below normal during October,” Simeral said. “That’s good.”
Simeral said he and other climate scientists from California and Nevada are meeting in Sacramento next week to discuss the situation.
“I wouldn’t say we’re in a drought at this point,” he said. “We’re definitely aware of the poor start of the year.”
He said the latest long range view — three-month forecast models for December, January and February — are showing below normal precipitation in California and the far western edge of Nevada.
“We all know these forecast models can be wrong,” he said. “An atmospheric river can dump quite a bit of rain and snow to bump us up into normal areas,” Simeral said. “Overall, a dry pattern at least for the northern half of the state is probably going to persist toward the end of the month.”
One positive for western Nevada, he said, is that the reservoirs are in very good shape because of a couple of excellent winters last year and the year before.
Stampede Reservoir, he said, was at 144 percent of normal at the end of October, Boca Dam at 85 percent, Prosser at 106 percent and Martis at 110 percent.
The biggest reservoir serving western Nevada, Lake Tahoe, is in even better shape at 206 percent of normal
Both men said southern Nevada is actually in a bit worse shape than the northern half of the state with moderate drought conditions in Clark, Lincoln and southern Nye counties. Simeral said there is even a little sliver of the far southeast part of Nevada along the southwest Utah and northwest Arizona borders that is suffering severe drought in his latest map issued this week. He said rangeland conditions in that area have been “really poor.”