October Rain Only "A Good Start"


October 2016 was a wet month in the northern two-thirds of the state but the south continued to be pretty dry.  (See: summary)  Monthly rainfall ranged from over 450% of normal at Eureka and Sacramento, while Los Angeles and San Diego only had 79% and 12% of their normal October rain respectively. But these numbers need to be put into context as October normals are relatively small and there is not a statistically significant relationship between October rainfall and how the rest of the rainfall season (July 1 to June 30) ultimately ends up.

San Francisco’s 2.43 inches for the month is 217% of normal (1.12”), but this ranks as only the 23rd wettest October going back to 1849. The wettest was 7.28” in 1889 (below).  One factor affecting the perception of it being a very rainy month were the number of days of rain. This year there were 12 days of measurable rain in San Francisco, the second highest number on record.  The most was 13 days in that very wet October of 1889.

Looking at the 25 wettest Octobers (below) there is not a correlation to how the seasons ultimately ended up; other than being a “good start” by saturating the soil to enhance future runoff and significantly reducing the fire danger. Eleven of those 25 wettest Octobers actually ended up below the 168-year average of 21.57”. This including the 2nd driest season on record; 1975-1976 when the season ended with a paltry 8.05”.

Jan Null, CCM
Golden Gate Weather Services