What is missing from the map of the United States right now? Well in general, drought is missing. According to a recent US Drought Monitor, the contiguous United States had the lowest reading of overall drought in the 17 year history of the weekly service. For the week of May 2nd, only 4.98% of the contiguous US had some form of drought. According to the USA Today, the lowest prior reading for the US was 7.7% of the US in drought, set in July 2010. It also compares favorably to a record high of 65.5% of the US in some form of drought set in September 2012. Continue reading
Looking at the current reservoir conditions from the California Data Exchange Center, it is clear to see that the conditions in California are much different than from a year ago. Nine of the state’s major reservoirs that serve both the Central Valley and State Water Projects have over 100% of their historic averages for this date. The state’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville are at 96% and 84% full respectively. The San Francisco Chronicle published a series of before and after photos of reservoirs in the state to show the stunning change in hydrologic conditions in just one year. For example, in August 2016, the San Luis Reservoir outside of Los Banos was at 10% of capacity. Fast forward to today, and the reservoir is completely full. The much-improved hydrologic conditions prompted Governor Jerry Brown on April 7th to issue an executive order that lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Kings, Tulare, Fresno and Tuolumne. The drought emergency he rescinded had been in place since April 25, 2014. Continue reading
In my last post, I wrote about how long-suffering California is having a good start to the water year as weather patterns have changed and so far, ample rainfall has fallen across the Golden State. A series of powerful storms this weekend and continuing this week has already caused flooding and widespread damage across parts of California. In Sacramento, Monday marked the first time in ten years that officials opened the Sacramento Weir to divert floodwaters to the Yolo Bypass and prevent further damage downstream. Strong winds also toppled the iconic Pioneer Cabin Tree, a hollowed-out sequoia large enough for cars to drive through. Further “atmospheric river” storms are expected to hit across the state as the week continues.
Last winter, California was supposed to bear the brunt of a “Godzilla El Niño” that would go a long way towards alleviating the drought here. Instead, a host of atmospheric conditions largely sent storms that most meteorologists predicted would hit California to the Pacific Northwest. As such, Northern California, Oregon and Washington experienced the majority of the storms while Southern California largely remained warm and dry. The winter storms helped to alleviate the drought in Oregon, but not completely erase it. According to the US Drought Monitor, extreme drought covered 67.29% of Oregon a year ago and 67.96% of Washington State. Currently, 32.78% of Oregon and 92.09% of Washington are drought free. Only 2.63% of Oregon’s land area has severe drought; Washington has none. During the winter of 2015-16, storms that many meteorologists initially believed would “bust the drought” in California eventually tracked to the Pacific Northwest. From December 1, 2015 to March 1, 2016, Seattle received more than 25 inches of rain – one of the soggiest winters on record. However, the lingering effects of the drought remain in both states. Low reservoirs, drought-affected forests and tough growing conditions have all presented challenges to the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading