california drought

Map: See Updated Drought Conditions in California

The map below will be updated every Thursday when the U.S. Drought Monitor releases its weekly report.

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More than 90 percent of California remains in severe drought this week, according to the most recent US Drought Monitor report.

The report released Thursday shows little change over the previous week. Recent storms have stayed primarily to the north, improving conditions in Washington and Oregon.

About 92 percent of the state is in the severe drought category. One year ago, that figure was 41 percent.

The US Drought Monitor report for Nov. 9, 2021.

"Over the last week, multiple storm systems moved into the Pacific Coast, resulting in mostly beneficial precipitation in western portions of Washington, Oregon, and northern California," the report notes. "Some of these areas saw improvements to ongoing drought conditions as a result of these precipitation events."

All of California is in some level of drought after a dry winter and a hot summer. One year ago, 70 percent of California was in at least one drought category.

Droughts are common in California, where dry spells are often followed by wet winters that replenish the state's critical snowpack and water reservoirs, but conditions this year are hotter and drier than others.

So it's going to take more than a lot of rain and snow to ease drought conditions.

Hot and dry conditions means water evaporates at a faster rate from reservoirs and the sparse Sierra Nevada snowpack that feeds them. The snowpack usually melts in spring or early summer, then that water flows into the state’s vast storage and distribution system.

California has more than 500 reservoirs, which were 50% lower than they should be at the start of June. 

These photos show the dramatic impact of the current dry spell at California’s lakes and reservoirs. 

California's Mediterranean-style climate means the summers are always dry and the winters are not always wet. The state's reservoirs act as a savings account, storing water in the wet years to help the state survive during the dry ones.

Last year was the third driest on record in terms of precipitation.

State officials were surprised earlier this year when about 500,000 acre feet of water they were expecting to flow into reservoirs never showed up. One acre-foot is enough water to supply up to two households for one year.

About three-quarters of the American West is in what is called a megadrought, with critical waterways like the Colorado River and Rio Grande that supply millions of people and farms expected to have dismally low flows this year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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