Not uncommon for a dry spell in Sacramento during an El Niño year

Bicyclists ride on the bike baths near the Guy West Bridge at Sac State on Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016, in Sacramento.
Bicyclists ride on the bike baths near the Guy West Bridge at Sac State on Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016, in Sacramento.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday provided some comfort for those who worry that February’s dry spell might mean that rainfall won’t return – previous El Niño years also have had breaks between the rain.

The experts at the government weather bureau in Arden Arcade say the public has recently inquired if it is unusual to go through a dry spell in an El Niño year. While Northern California is in the midst of an El Niño, which usually means rain, rain, rain, the beginning of this month has been dry for a week.

The weather service prepared a graphic for the agency’s website that showed other El Niño years have also had dry spells.

“Everybody is worried about El Niño and the drought,” said meteorologist Travis Wilson. “They expect all this rain to happen. When it doesn’t, we get calls. Dry spells happen in the strongest of El Niños.”

Only 0.03 of an inch has been recorded this month in Sacramento. February is normally the second wettest month of the year in Sacramento with an average of 3.82 inches.

However, after a soggy January in which a welcome 5.79 inches fell, the spigot ran dry. Precipitation for the rainfall year stands at 9.44 inches, which is 78 percent of normal. Each day the city goes without a rain cloud in sight, the percentage drops.

“It happens very quickly,” said Wilson. Still it is not impossible that the month could end up with the average amount of rainfall: “Who knows?” he asked.

The weather service’s Sacramento office provided examples of lengthy dry spells while under the influence of El Niño:

1957-58: 8 days in a row without rain in Sacramento

1965-66: 27 days

1972-73: 11 days

1982-83: 23 days

1991-92: 16 days

1997-98: 18 days

2015-16: 7 days and counting as of Wednesday morning

The forecast calls for sunny skies and warm temperatures in or near the 70s through Tuesday. A chance of rain is to re-enter the picture Wednesday, according to Wilson.

“We are hopeful,” he said.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews