California Still Drought? Yes, No, and Maybe — Part 2

Kip Hansen’s news analysis — January 30, 2023

Over there are statements that despite flooding, washed away, landslides, and buried in snow, California is actually still in a state of drought. cliff volume say The California drought is over. definitive.

In Part 1 of this two part seriesI asked the question: “Is it possible? both Are the claims and counterclaims correct?” and replied: “Yes, very true”. And I told readers how it could be.

How is the drought situation in California now, as of this week?

If you have read Part 1 (and you really should), you won’t be surprised that the answer to this question is:

It depends on who you ask

Mark Arax, writer about California and the countrywrote a Guest Essay for the NY Times Opinion section titled: “My state is 1,000 miles long and not everyone who lives there hates the rain“. The title shows him talking about the rain and the whole piece, full of interesting history, is well worth reading.

The California Department of Water Resources just do inform later:

January 26, 2023 SACRAMENTO, Calif. –The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced today that recent storms will allow the State Water Project (SWP) to increase water supply to 29 public water agencies serving 27 million Californians. . Based on the amount of water collected and stored in recent weeks, DWR is now expected to deliver 30% of the required water supply – or 1.27 million acres – by 2023, up from 5% initially announced on December 1.

The increase in distribution was a direct result of extreme weather in late December, and nine atmospheric rivers in early January helped fill reservoirs and dramatically increased the Sierra Nevada snow cover. SWP’s two largest reservoirs (Oroville and San Luis) have a combined 1.62 million acre-feet of water in storage — nearly enough to supply 5.6 million homes for a year. While Water Year 2023 started with below-average rainfall, conditions have turned to above-average extremes.”

Things to keep in mind: The water department has increased their projected water supply by six times – they will deliver six times as much. But even with that huge increase, it only comes to 30% of request delivery. (But that improves on the previous bad estimate of 5% of water required.) That represents the true state of California’s water supply – demand is always much greater than supply.

As I explained in Part 1, drought is a very convoluted and complex topic, and not just “not enough rain lately”. Without a doubt, the drought situation in California has greatly improved – they have had a lot of rain and a lot of snow in the mountains in the last two months. But we still haven’t answered the question: “Is California still having a drought?” because:

It depends on exactly what you ask and Who you ask.

My solution to the conundrum of explaining California’s current drought condition is simply to present images of various drought-related indicators from multiple sources. Readers are invited to come to their own conclusions. I know well that physical reality on the ground in California will not change based on my or your opinion.

First, what is the long-term average rainfall in California?

This is the 30-year average, a climate period, showing the entire southwestern United States. I’ll pick out a few features, because you need to know about this overall pattern to understand today’s California drought map.

1) The most northwest corner of California, the purples, is a temperate rainforest, receiving finish 100 inches of rain per year.

2) There are some regions, the blue zone, that receive more than 50 inches of rain with darker green areas of 60-70 inches per year.

3) Moderately wet vegetables; southern Sierras, Big Sur region, high mountains surrounding the LA Basin.

4) Predict (everything is more brown than yellow) 80% of California is dry to very dry.

Today, if we asked the California Department of Water Resources, we would get the following answer:

Note: SPEI version has 12 months warranty. About 50% of the state is still in a state of drought. The Colorado Desert, the extreme southeastern corner, is still very dry – with almost no rain during recent storms.

United States federal website, Drought.govgive us this latest view:

Note: This is current until five days ago. Big difference between this image and the image directly above from the California Water Watch.

And again,, with the Multi-Indicator Drought Index (MIDI):

Much disagreement remains – this suggests that even part of the Colorado Desert (lower right) is a wet “W2”.

California’s stored water resources? Its main reservoirs:

After so much rain, why not full? …or even up to the historical average (green line) ? The first answer is the exact location. Not all rain falls everywhere in California. Second, it’s not every reservoir’s top priority to hold as much water as possible – they double the role of flood control devices and don’t fill up if-and-when there’s more heavy rain. The general condition is that the reservoirs are in good condition. [ see the California Department of Water Resources statement far above ]

Remember, every April and May, the ice starts to melt, sometimes very quickly. Snow melts so quickly that creeks, streams, and rivers are flooded — and reservoirs have to make room for that excess water.

Lead to California ice: (see link for larger image)

Statewide averages: 128% above normal on April 1 (end of snow season – still two more months for more snow) and 214% above normal on this day. Southern Sierra, including Mount Whitney, at 255% for this date. This is the amount of water, water content, not just “snow legs”. Skiers care about the depth of the snow, but the water department cares about the water content.

If your hobby is skiing, check it out This report on snow depths at California ski resorts: almost all reported snow depths above 100% of the normal April 1 average – with two snowfalls yet to pass.

Now this is a surprise even to me, Palmer’s Drought Index for California. Explanatory notes below the extracted image (taken from a country map).

Groundwater is measured as the vertical distance from the bottom to the top of the water column in the well. Groundwater is important to Californians, many of whom depend on wells for their indoor drinking water, and to California farmers and ranchers who pump water from wells to water plants. or for livestock to drink.

Low in the image, just above and slightly to the left of Los Angeles County, is a cluster of pink dots indicating water levels deeper than 500 feet until water can be found. this is the south San Joaquin Valley. In total, the valley produces about 13% of California’s agricultural output. Because groundwater extraction Over the past century, the valley floor has subsided by 20-30 feet (6 to 10 meters). (Note: After publishing, I fixed the title of the image above.)

Recently, speaking with a colleague, she presented the water levels in Lake Mead as “evidence” of Global Warming/Climate Change. The Lake Mead basin covers only a small part of California.

That very small part of the Colorado Desert, in the Colorado River basin, lies below Lake Mead and does not fit into it.

As Cliff Mass has clearly explained and is widely understood, Lake Mead’s low water levels are almost entirely due to the fact that water withdrawal continues to increase and always exceed the amount of water entering the lake. Two major reservoirs along the Colorado River, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, combined must provide water for more than 40 million people. Phoenix, Arizona alone has added 500,000 people since the turn of the century. Lake Mead inlet is very variable and increasing slightly.

I provide the last series of images: Drought/Wetness in California since the turn of the 21st centuryst Century and the like for the last 2,000 years.

Using the eyeball test, we found that California is always very dry or quite wet. Lots of extreme years, both dry and wet, and lots of years in the +/- 20% range.

It’s California

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Author’s comments:

It’s almost never enough to take some data that is likely to look like it’s established on the internet, crush it until it conforms, graph it, and present it as-all-truth- truth….

Most of the topics discussed on this blog are not like that in the real physical world.

Like the “California drought”.

I’d love to read your comments/conclusions, see any other input you might suggest, and answer any of your questions if I can. Send your comments to “Kip” if talking to me.

Thanks for reading,

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