Warm weather comes at price

February 1, 2009 6:40:43 PM PST
This January was one of the warmest and driest in California history.

San Jose State University's Department of Meteorology says last month's average daytime temperatures were the fifth highest since record-keeping began.

Our lack of rainfall ranks eighth, going all the way back to 1895.

It has been beautiful outdoors, but we may have to pay for it down the road.

This winter weather has felt a lot more like spring and the problems that is causing could start as early as Monday when one local water agency is expected to impose mandatory water rationing on as many as 700,000 people.

It has been a month of picture perfect weather. And, even though it has been a lot of fun the consensus is that it has been almost too perfect.

"It's not normal," says Sunnyvale resident Min Wu.

"It's not normal. We're looking at going skiing but it doesn't seem like it's ski weather," adds Cathy Martina-Hayden of Los Altos.

It is not just anecdotal.

Eugene Cordero is a meteorology professor at San Jose State University who studies weather trends. For California, this January has been one of the hottest January's since record-keeping began more than a century ago.

"It's not the hottest January. But, it's the fifth hottest January in terms of maximum temperatures," says Cordero.

The average temperature in January was 55.9 degrees. That is made for not just hot days, but very dry days.

Cordero says, "If we have even an average Feb, March and April, then probably a lot of places are going to have to do some type of water rationing."

That is already happening.

Monday, Sonoma County's water agency is expected to order residents in parts of Marin, Mendocino and Sonoma Counties to cut back on their water usage by as much as 50 percent.

"It's an extraordinary situation we're in and it's a bad situation that we're in. But we are trying to be proactive and get ahead of this thing and make sure that people know that what we are projecting is a very bad water year," explains Pam Jeane with the Sonoma County Water Agency.

It is a bad water year that has also brought an early spring. As for those spring conditions, scientists say get used to it. An early spring could be here to stay.

Cordero told ABC7, "This is what we are going to be expecting to happen more and more often. So, this is going to be less of an anomaly and more kind of the norm."

The dry weather here also means bad news in the Sierra.

The latest survey found the snowpack is 61 percent of normal. Last week Governor Schwarzenegger said that means California could face a water crisis like it has never seen.