California is officially through with its drought after more than seven years of particularly dry, hot conditions. We see you, 2019.
Across the contiguous US, steady snow and rain storms (and let’s not forget absolutely frigid temperatures) marked the country’s wettest winter on record. Last month’s wet weather also made for the second wettest February on record, boding well for the Golden State. Heavy snow across high elevations in California paired with heavy rain across much of the southern region brought the state out of its drought for the first time since December 2011, according to the US Drought Monitor. Snowpack continues to build in the mountains of the northern part of the state, further compensating for long-term dry soil moistures.
An “atmospheric river” event last month – yeah, pretty much what it sounds like: a river in the sky – drenched much of the state with more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rain at the lower elevations and 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) of snow at higher elevations. (Our San Francisco office can attest to the need for muck boots and wind-proof umbrellas.)
A photo shared by the National Weather Service in Sacramento shows the dramatic difference five months makes, as snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys from a photo taken mid-March replace October’s dry, brown image. Previously dusty hills in southern California’s Anza-Borrego desert have been transformed to a sweeping sea of yellow and orange after the super-wet winter and warmer spring weather prompted a “super bloom” of poppies and other wildflowers.
California had experienced some form of drought for more than seven years, says the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska. The state imposed its first mandatory water restriction to address the drought, urging the public to lower water consumption and prohibiting outdoor landscaping.
“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” said then-Governor Edmund Brown two years later when precipitation levels picked up. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”
Experts agree. Even after all the rain, 7 percent of California still remains abnormally dry from previous years. Reservoirs in San Diego County are only 65 percent full, while Big Bear Lake east of Los Angeles was down 5.5 meters (18 feet) at the beginning of this month, though it’s expected to rise.
[H/T: NBC News]