SACRAMENTO — A change of seasons is in the air in California, but not much moisture is.
Temperatures in the last several weeks have turned mild and pleasant in the Central Valley, which likely signals an end to the searing, triple-digit heat that gripped the valley at times earlier this summer.
Afternoon highs in September were actually cooler than last year in most inland cities. For instance, Redding averaged 86.6 degrees in this past month, down sharply from its 95.8-degree average in September 2012, according to the National Weather Service.
A band of rain even visited Northern California on Sept. 21, causing some concerns for growers. But the federal Climate Prediction Center foresees a below-average chance of rain throughout the state in the next two weeks, and only equal chances of below- or above-normal precipitation after that.
“A ridge is building in now and it looks like, even up in Redding, it’s below normal with winds blowing,” said Johnnie Powell, a NWS forecaster here. “There’s no sign of the storm track coming over us.”
In the Sacramento area, skies are expected to remain clear with afternoon temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s throughout October, according to AccuWeather’s long-range forecast.
The lull comes after a series of showers in northern areas raised growers’ hopes — and a few fears. The biggest rain came Sept. 21, when Redding sopped up 1.22 inches while Sacramento recorded about a half-inch, the NWS recorded.
The rain stopped the harvest of walnuts at Crain Orchards in Red Bluff for a couple of days, said Jud Pray, farm manager. But a little rainfall actually helps walnuts mature, he said.
The rain caused a pause in the rice harvest, too, as growers had to wait a couple of days before getting back into the fields, reported the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service office here.
Winegrape growers were watching their grapes to see if they were affected by the rain, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported. The rain could dilute sugar content in some grapes or cause them to rot, the organization explained.
Raisin-grape growers say three-quarters of their crop was still drying in vineyards last week and that blowing sand from the storms may have affected some of the crop, the CFBF reported.
Still, rainfall is needed to help California’s depleted reservoirs, which were holding 74 percent of their average amounts for this time of year as of Oct. 1, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Shasta Lake, the centerpiece of the Central Valley Project, was down to 42 percent of capacity on that day.
Here are average high temperatures in September and their comparisons to last year for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service:
Redding: September 2013, 86.6 degrees; September 2012, 95.8 degrees
Sacramento: 2013, 85.2 degrees; 2012, 90.4 degrees
Stockton: 2013, 85.2 degrees; 2012, 90.9 degrees
Modesto: 2013, 86.2 degrees; 2012, 91 degrees
Salinas: 2013, 76.3 degrees; 2012, 71.4 degrees
Fresno: 2013, 91.5 degrees; 2012, 96.8 degrees