The year began with 83% of California in a drought, but after a month of some incredible rain and snowfall, much needed relief has come. Let’s look at some data.
There have been three distinct drought periods for California since 2000. The map above shows the percent of land covered in drought. Colors represent the severity of the drought based on ranking by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The dark red represents the highest ranking (D4), which is an Exceptional Drought. At the drought’s peak in 2014, over 80% of the state was in a D3 or D4 zone.
The recent retreat of drought across California is due to a series of January storm system that steered atmospheric rivers of tropical moisture into the state. The non-technical term for this is Pineapple Express, and the animation below illustrates this beautifully.
These events are not too unusual for the winter, and they can easily drop several inches of rain. One storm doesn’t have much impact, since a lot of rain washes out to see, but the multiple hits in January were just what California needed. The map below shows some eye-popping precipitation totals.
Over high terrain, this precipitation is stored up in snow. This will continue bringing drought relief as it melts over the spring and summer.