The most severe category of drought expanded in California during the past week at the start of what looks to be a hot, dry summer for a state facing a significant dry spell.
"Exceptional" drought conditions expanded to more than 36 percent of California, a four-percentage point increase since last week, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report. The Monitor's drought levels are Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).
Exceptional drought conditions (pictured below) expanded during the past week in Ventura, LA and much of Orange counties, according to the Monitor. No part of California was listed in the Exceptional drought category at the start of 2014, but months without significant rainfall and a decreased Sierra snowpack -- a vital source of water for the state -- led to the drought expansion.
About 79 percent of the state is under Extreme to Exceptional drought, an increase of about 3 percentage points since last week. A large swath of the Central Coast and Central Valley has been hardest hit by the drought as the state just completed its warmest and third-driest winter on record.
In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency because of critically low levels at the state's reservoirs, due to disappointing rainfall totals and snowpack that measured 16 percent of average.
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This week's Drought Monitor report was issued a day after the National Weather Service announced that downtown Los Angeles recorded its seventh-driest rain season since record-keeping began in 1877. Just 6.08 inches of rain fell during between July 1, 2013 and June 30.