In December, a series of winter storms resulted in the Sierras getting blanketed with snow and the snowpack reaching above-average levels for the first time in years.
Also, rain for coastal areas from Santa Barbara to San Diego is still below normal, with some places getting just 33 to 50 percent of normal. Big winter storms have been replaced by warmer, summer-like conditions.
"Almost the entire state is still well-below normal levels with deficits of about 20 inches of precipitation or more," said climatologist Brian Fuchs at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska. He said the strong El Nino in the Pacific Ocean "is starting to not be as robust. The forecasts are showing that most El Nino conditions will be gone probably by spring to early summer."
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor readings show about 94 percent of California remains in some form of drought. That is a slight improvement from 98 percent a year ago but major regions from Sacramento and Fresno to Los Angeles and San Diego are in the worst two categories of drought.
Some of California's reservoirs also are lower than normal for this time of year. For example, Lake McClure and New Melones Lake in the Central Sierra foothills are each below 20 percent of capacity. Also, Castaic Lake in northwest Los Angeles County sits at just 26 percent of capacity. However, reservoir levels at Lake Shasta, Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake are each above 50 percent of capacity for late February.
Fuchs said forecasts are showing "the warmer temperatures that we have seen in February are anticipated to continue. He said that "does not bode well as far as accumulating snow in those upper elevations and also with the above-normal temperatures we see more water demand as well."