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NOAA's winter forecast says no rain for you, Southern California

After the winter and spring passes, exposed mud flats at the Kern Wildlife Refuge dry up until they are periodically irrigated or the annual fall flood-up begins. The refuge has been allocated a smaller percentage of water in 2015, and the flood-up will be delayed.
Susanica Tam for KPCC
File: Dry mud flats at the Kern Wildlife Refuge.

The color of Southern California’s winter this year: tan. Southern California is looking at a winter of little rain and continued drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which issued its winter climate predictions.

The outlook is dry and hot during the months of January, February and March — which typically are Southern California’s wettest months.

“The outlook favors above-average temperatures pretty much over the entire state,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“To the southern third of the state, we slightly favor a drier-than-average winter,” he said. “So obviously not what folks in California are looking for.”

However, there is a ray of hope for California’s water supply. The likely La Niña conditions this winter mean Northern California could be hit with winter storms — and that includes possible average or above-average snowfall in the Sierras.

If the prediction is borne out, that could be vital for California, according to Soroosh Sorooshian, professor at the Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing at UC Irvine.

"Part of the good news is that we rely heavily on the snowpack in the Sierras,” Sorooshian said. “So then, at least the existence of the snowpack means there is good news — once it melts — and hopefully is enough to fill our reservoirs."

However, Sorooshian cautioned, it’s just a climate model. Last year, NOAA officials predicted wetter conditions that didn't materialize.

So, just because this winter’s prediction is hot and dry, you may still want to hold onto your raincoat.