LOS ANGELES – Rainy seasons over the past two years were the driest in downtown Los Angeles since record-keeping began in 1877, and forecasters now say the El Niño that had been predicted to bring some relief may not materialize.
According to the National Weather Service, the 2012 to 2014 rainy seasons — which are measured every July 1 to June 30 — brought only 11.93 inches of rainfall, which is 17.93 inches below normal.
By comparison, the 1897 to 1899 seasons saw 12.65 inches of rain, or about 17.21 inches below normal for the period, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s the worst drought we probably have seen in our lifetime,” said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Four of the driest rainy seasons have occurred in the past seven years, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The drought, he said, started in 1999 and worsened over time. The past three years, however, have been the worst.
In June, nearly 80 percent of California was considered under “extreme” and “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest categories of dryness, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map.
And any hopes for an El Niño weather pattern this rainy season are quickly fading, Patzert said. “El Niño is wimping out,” he said.
California’s dogged drought will cost the state’s economy $2.2 billion and an estimated 17,100 jobs, but consumers will largely be spared higher prices, according to a major study released Tuesday by the University of California, Davis.
Statewide, an estimated 428,000 acres of irrigated cropland have gone out of production, amounting to 5 percent of the state’s total. Farmers will pay about $454 million in added pumping costs.