September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Extreme Drought and Warmth of 2013-14 Across California – Looking Back to Forecast Our Summer

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Alex Tardy

The winter of 2013-14 will go into the record books in the top five warmest and driest for California. The record warmth is an average of low and high temperatures from October to April, which is typically the wet, cooler season for the West Coast. The lack of precipitation this past winter, and since January 2011, has led to the severe-to-extreme drought conditions in California. Precipitation deficits for most areas range from one to two seasons of missing precipitation, which equates to 12 to 30 inches below normal across southern California. For the period October to April 2014, the precipitation was between 25 and 50 percent of normal for most areas.

The extreme drought conditions have taken a toll on water supplies with major reservoirs in California only 50 percent full and at 65 percent of the historical average for April. Normal snowmelt is not expected to result in the typical late spring runoff and replenishment of water supply. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, where much of the source of the water supply originates, is at all-time low levels that are 10 to 25 percent of normal. This is the lowest observed snowpack water content since 1976-77, which was the worse drought on record for California. The winter of 2013-14 featured a very dry start but did have significant precipitation from mid-February to late March. This resulted from a few significant Atmospheric River events and led to most of the seasonal total. The precipitation deficit has been most severe in south central California where the agriculture has been impacted, wells have dried up, and local water supplies are very low.

Satellite depiction of Atmospheric River episodes in the Pacific which impacted the West Coast with heavy precipitation in 2014. Courtesy of Sheldon Kusselson at NOAA

Satellite depiction of Atmospheric River episodes in the Pacific which impacted the West Coast with heavy precipitation in 2014.
Courtesy of Sheldon Kusselson at NOAA

For more about water and water supply issues in California, visit Aquapedia and Aquafornia. As part of the Water Education Foundation’s goal of educating the public on water issues in the West and in California, Aquapedia uses Foundation publications and other vetted resources to reach the growing number of people who receive their information via digital formats. Use this valuable information and site the Water Education Foundation as your resource. Aquapedia centers on resource articles supplemented with photos, videos, interactive maps and other online tools, which provide background and context to understand California’s complex water issues.



After the record warm winter season (October to April) and much below average precipitation (third year in a row), the outlook for summer 2014 is warmer than normal conditions with periods of active monsoon thunderstorms in the deserts and mountains.

Due to the ongoing drought, the fire danger is much higher than normal and those fires that occur will have the potential for extreme behavior and growth. Drought monitoring maps (updated weekly) are available from the National Drought Mitigation Center. Across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, average sea surface temperatures are expected to warm into an El Niño state this summer and fall. (For current information about El Niño, including educational resources, visit the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center website.) However, it is uncertain how much impact this may have in the 2014-15 winter wet season. Historically, several El Niño winters have brought normal to below normal precipitation. Only the strong phase of the El Niño has been the most consistent with above normal precipitation for southern California such as 1977-78, 1982-83 and 1997-98, which were also seasons that ended ongoing drought. In general, California would need about 150 percent of its average precipitation for the rainy season to significantly reduce the drought and raise the low water supply in reservoirs to near normal levels.

Temperature (left) and precipitation (right) outlook for the period  July, August, and September 2014.

Temperature (left) and precipitation (right) outlook for the period
July, August, and September 2014.

Alexander Tardy Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Manager at NOAA/National Weather Service in San Diego, CA and a member of CSTA.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.