California Dryin’

July 21, 2014

gcali_compare

NASA:

Now in its third year, the drought in California grows worse with each month. 2013 was the driest calendar year in 119 years of records, and 2014 has not brought much relief, even as scientists and residents wait hopefully forEl Niño moisture. From stream gauges and reservoir levels to ground-based photos and satellite images, the landscape seems to grow browner and drier with each month.

In a weekly report issued on July 17 by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state of California was classified as being in severe drought. The situation was declared extreme for 79 percent of the state’s land area and exceptional in 36 percent. For more information on drought classification levels, read this.

The pair of images above from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captures a wide view of the situation. The top image was acquired on June 25, 2014; the lower image shows the landscape on July 2, 2011, just as the latest dry period began. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the changes.

Near the Pacific coast, some mountain forests are holding on, but much of area around the Coast Range has browned considerably. The green farmlands visible in the state’s Central Valley in 2011 are much less robust in 2014, with some lands dried out and many fields left fallow for lack of water. Just north of Yosemite National Park, the land is not only brown from drought; it is also scarred from the Rim Fire and other blazes in 2013.

In the Sierra Nevada, the snow cover has decreased significantly, and what remains has a tan or gray tint from dust and soil. On April 1, 2014, California Department of Water Resources noted that snow-water content was just 32 percent of the historical average at a time when snow cover is usually at its yearly peak. By May 1, snow-water content was 18 percent of normal.

This browning of California has been underway for quite some time, with precipitation averaging just 67 percent of normal over the past three years. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor and the National Climatic Data Center,the July 2013 to June 2014 period has been the warmest on record for the state and the third driest since 1895. Precipitation in the current water year (which started October 1, 2013) is just 56 percent of normal, and since May through September are typically dry even in normal years, drought relief is not likely any time soon.

“Eleven of the past fifteen years have been drier than normal, with the past three years delivering about 45 percent of normal rain and snowpack in Southern California,” noted Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This follows two of the wettest decades in California’s history—the 1980s and 1990s—when population more than doubled and the economy of the state exploded. So that makes this drought more punishing than those in the past.”

Advertisements

7 Responses to “California Dryin’”

  1. rwegrzen Says:

    In their recent book authors B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam present evidence from paleoclimate research of a history of megadroughts in CA and the Southwestern US

    The West without Water – What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow
    http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520268555

    If the current drought in the SW and CA continues for years the impacts on water security will be almost incalculable.


  2. The photos most clearly show the absence of snowpack, the traditional source of summer water. Without it, farmlands go dry, or aquifers are pumped dry.

  3. rayduray Says:

    The Left, as represented by Counterpunch chimes in on the CA drought situation:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/18/mega-drought/

    ***
    Recently NWS San Diego provided what I considered to be a very significant update on the potential of El Nino to provide significant relief for the California drought. The presentation is pretty alarming. What I learned here is that the linkage between El Nino and precipitation in CA is highly variable.

    Add to that the fact that the current state of the ocean is far less encouraging about a strong El Nino than it appeared to be as of a couple months ago, it would seem that it’s probably time for CA authorities to prepare for ongoing severe drought.


  4. […] g NASA: Now in its third year, the drought in California grows worse with each month. 2013 was the driest calendar year in 119 years of records, and 2014 has not brought much relief, even as scient…  […]


  5. […] g NASA: Now in its third year, the drought in California grows worse with each month. 2013 was the driest calendar year in 119 years of records, and 2014 has not brought much relief, even as scient…  […]


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: