California officially NO LONGER in Exceptional Drought
Thursday, January 26, 2017, 4:48 -
The long train of Pacific storms that have been affecting the west coast together with other favorable weather patterns along the south, mainly associated with Gulf of Mexico moisture, have helped put a big dent in the extreme to exceptional drought situation affecting areas of California and the Southeast US.
No more exceptional drought in California
It is nice to see how the darker red colors that represent an extreme to exceptional drought situation, which have been covering a great deal of the Drought Monitor map of California months and months, have finally vanished (see video below). About a year ago the US Drought Monitor reported that 43% of the state was in "Exceptional Drought", but as of January 24th 2017 that value has been reduced to zero.
Watch below: Drought improvement in January 2017
Drought relief has been pouring in for California since December 2016, especially during this month of January. Despite the flooding and mudslides, last week was exceptional, as a train of three storms produced a significant amount of precipitation over most of California, particularly the Sierra Nevada, coastal locations, and the southwestern interior. Between 8 and 12 inches were common through the Sierra Nevada while 4 to locally 10 inches were dropped on areas farther west and southwest.
Below: Drought Comparison from December 27, 206 to January 24, 2017
According to the San Joaquin precipitation index (an average across that region), January was the wettest ever observed in 112 years of record, and 4- to 5-year precipitation totals climbed dramatically from approximately the 2 percentile level as of early January to around the 20th percentile through this week.
The best of all news is that the current snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Range is 193% of its historical average volume. Snowpack acts as water storage for the drier, hot, summer months, and is also a reliable measure of what to expect during the coming year in terms of drought.
Statewide average snowpack (snow water equivalent) is almost twice normal for late January, and somewhat more than twice normal in the southern Sierra Nevada. Amounts actually exceed those typically recorded April 1, the snowpack climatological maximum, and in all areas values are equal to or above those recorded during the super El Niño of 1982-83 when California recorded historic precipitation values.
Despite all the good news for California, caution with water use is still the norm as some areas are still experiencing moderate to severe drought. February, March and in some areas of the state April, are still influenced by incoming Pacific Storms which means more rain and snow can arrive before the dry season starts.
Experts, however, are not sure this wet pattern will last through the rest of the Winter and into the Spring, especially after the Climate Prediction Center published the February Precipitation Outlook, which shows a drier pattern for much of the southwest US.
Below: February Precipitation Outlook (courtesy: Climate Prediction Center)
Below: No part of the U.S. in "Exceptional Drought" as of January 24