A series of California storms have left the country in drought


LOS ANGELES, CA – The atmospheric rivers that have been pounding California since late last year have blanketed the mountains with all-winter snow and begun to raise reservoir levels, but experts say much more precipitation will be needed to reverse the effects of years of drought.

The US Drought Monitor’s weekly update released Thursday showed that “extreme” drought has been virtually eliminated a week after the worst category, “exceptional,” was wiped off the map. Two weeks ago extreme drought covered 35% of California.

The Drought Monitor characterized the improvement as a significant reduction in drought intensity, but warned that large parts of the state have moisture deficits that have been entrenched for two to three years.

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Most of the state is now in the “severe” or “moderate” drought categories, with small areas in the extreme northwest and extreme southeast in a state described as “abnormally dry” , which is the lowest level.

After extensive damage to some communities and at least 18 deaths, California was in a lull between the storms on Thursday, but more rainfall was expected to arrive on Friday and continue into the weekend. Flooding remained a concern, especially along the Salinas River in Monterey County, because so much rain has fallen.

Find out what’s happening in Encinitaswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Downtown San Francisco, for example, received about 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) of rain from December 26 to January 10. Snowfall so far this season at Mammoth Mountain Resort in the Eastern Range reached 444 inches (11.3 meters). .

In the Sierra Nevada and other mountains, the water content of the snowpack is more than 200% of normal so far and more than 100% of the average on April 1, when it is historically at its peak, according to the state Department of Water Resources. .

“The automated sensors are recording what they would consider a full seasonal snowpack, about what we expect on April 1,” state climatologist Michael Anderson told reporters this week.

The snowpack supplies about one-third of California’s water when it melts and runs off into rivers and reservoirs.

Locally, some reservoirs have seen significant increases in water levels, but there are still significant deficits to overcome.

Statewide, reservoir storage is just 82 percent of average for this time of year. The largest reservoir, Shasta, is only 44% of capacity. That’s only 70% of the average so far. The massive Oroville Reservoir is closer to its average, but at only 49% of capacity.

“The good news is they’re off record lows,” Anderson said of the large reservoirs. “The challenge is that they still have a lot of recovery to do before they return to normal operating conditions.”

And there is concern that the rains may stop abruptly. The end of 2021 was marked by significant storms, but the start of 2022 saw months of bone-dry weather.

There are some signs of a drier pattern developing around Jan. 20, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said during an online briefing this week.

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