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Spring 2021 Climate & Drought Summary

National Weather Service - Sacramento




Water Year 2021 (October - May)

The October 1st - May 31st period ranked among the Top 10 driest on record for several locations (Image 1). In fact, the Northern Sierra 8-Station Index had its third driest Water Year on record.

Image 1


Water Year precipitation totals through May remained well below normal (Image 2). Most locations ranged from 40% to 60% of normal precipitation. 

Image 2


Driest April on Record

It was a record dry month of April for Downtown Sacramento and Modesto with no precipitation recorded (Image 3). In addition, Stockton had its third driest April on record. 


Image 3

Snowpack Conditions

The snowpack's water content usually peaks around April 1. However, the snowpack peaked in March this Water Year. Warm spring temperatures and the lack of winter storms resulted in a below normal statewide snowpack on April 1st, or 59 % of normal (Image 4).

Image 4 (Credit: DWR)

Record-Breaking May

The first major heat event of the season occurred in late May, when some Valley locations climbed above 100° and shattered their high temperature records (Image 5). Redding, Red Bluff and Sacramento Exec AP had their hottest high temperatures on record for the month of May on the 31st (Image 5). In addition, Downtown Sacramento had its second hottest May day on record. 


Image 5

Drought Conditions

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought conditions have continued to expand across interior northern California and range from D3-Extreme Drought to D4-Exceptional Drought (Image 6). The drought classifications are due to significant precipitation deficits from the 2020 and 2021 water years. The NWS Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal drought outlook indicates that drought conditions are expected to persist through the summer (Image 7).

Image 6

Image 7


Soil moisture this year is much drier and the area has expanded compared to last year, as shown by the warmer colors (Images 8 & 9).

Image 8

Image 9