Winter storms almost completely wipe out drought from California’s map


Back-to-back storms that hit California this winter almost wiped drought off the California map.

After the recent atmospheric river, only a lingering patch of “moderate drought” conditions remains near the Oregon border.

The Federal Drought Watch Map, a way of measuring drought primarily used in agriculture, shows two percent of the state with “moderate drought” conditions and 13 percent unusually dry in its February 28 report. .

Just a week ago, one percent of the state was in severe drought, four percent in “moderate drought” and 33 percent unusually dry.

Three months ago, four percent of the state was in “extreme drought”, 18 percent in “severe drought”, 83 percent in “moderate drought” and the rest abnormally dry.

READ MORE: From 20 inches to drizzle: Bay area sees huge variance in precipitation totals

The Drought Monitor Map lists several factors; those that state water managers monitor most closely are precipitation totals and reservoir and snowpack levels. This season, all of them look promising for the California water supply.

The state measured more precipitation in January and February than in 2018, and reservoirs benefited.

The state’s largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, is 117 percent above its historical average and 85 percent of capacity. The Northern California Water Reserve climbed 39 feet in elevation in February alone and is now only 24 feet from its edge. And all the while, the US Bureau of Reclamation has been doing routine releases for flood control and environmental factors.

The much smaller Folsom Lake near Sacramento is 110% of its historical average and Don Pedro west of Yosemite National Park is 116%.

“Even Oroville, which has been kept low for construction, is 85% above the annual average,” said Chris Orrock, spokesperson for the California Department of Water Resources.

And then there is the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada. DWR officials conducted an official snow survey on February 28 and observed more than double what they measured last month at Phillips Station near Echo Summit. The snow depth was 113 inches, with a snow water equivalent of 43.5 inches, according to a press release.

State water managers and farmers depend on knowing how much water is in the snowpack. Their plans for the coming year are based on the results of a key snowpack survey conducted around April 1, when snow levels peak.

The Drought Monitor is a joint effort of NOAA, USDA, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A map is released each week with drought conditions across the country, indexing everything from groundwater storage to river level.

“This is not the right map for the representation of the drought in California’s water resources,” Mike Anderson, California state climatologist, told SFGATE for a previous article on the drought map. “Instead, it is a reflection of what the natural landscape experiences in relation to seasonal precipitation and runoff, compared to average conditions.”


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