Rain Shadow

Lake Cachuma is only half of what it used to be

Even after all the storms this winter, Lake Cachuma is still only half of what it used to be. It rained so much across Northern California during January and February the state’s largest reservoirs filled 100% or more having to open spillways for the first time in years. But, not so Lake Cachuma. The thirsty reservoir suffers from what is called “Rain Shadow.” Cold fronts approach the Santa Ynez mountain range “straight on” dumping most of its’ precipitation on the coastal faces of the mountains leaving little to be shared with the lake. The lake is nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley at the western end of the Los Padres National Forest; blocked on the north, south and east by the mountains. Most of the drenching rains covering California this year came from cold fronts flowing from the north, but Lake Cachuma is positioned to receive storms moving out of the southeast from the ocean. Lake Cachuma will need at least one more wet winter like this one to recover from drought.

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