Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California

Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California
In this Wednesday Jan. 3, 2018 file photo, Grant Davis, director of the Dept. of Water Resources, center, discusses the results of the first snow survey of the season at the nearly snow barren Phillips Station snow course, near Echo Summit, Calif. California's water managers are carrying out their mid-winter snowpack survey Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, as the winter's dry spell persists. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California is rapidly plunging back into drought, with severe conditions now existing in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties—home to one-fourth of the state's population, a national drought monitor said Thursday.

The weekly report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a project of government agencies and other partners, also shows 44 percent of the state is now considered to be in a moderate drought. It's a dramatic jump from just last week, when the figure was 13 percent.

"It's not nearly where we'd like to be," Frank Gehrke, a state official, acknowledged after separately carrying out manual measurements of winter snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which supplies water to millions of Californians in a good, wet year.

Overall, the vital snowpack Thursday stood at less than a third of normal for the date.

California lifted a drought state of emergency less than a year ago, ending cutbacks that at the peak of the drought mandated 25 percent conservation by cities and towns, devastated generations of native salmon and other wildlife, made household wells run dry in the state's middle, and compelled farmers to dig deep, costly wells.

A rainy winter last year in the state's north finally snapped the worst of that drought.

Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California
In this Dec. 14, 2017 file photo, Los Angeles skyline is seen through burned trees after a brush fire erupted in the hills in Elysian Park in Los Angeles. California's water managers are carrying out their mid-winter snowpack survey as the winter's dry spell persists. The Department of Water Resources on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, will carry out manual measurements of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

The new figures from national drought monitors came amid growing concern among state officials about another dry winter. The dry spell is acute in Southern California. Los Angeles and some surrounding areas have received only one significant storm in nearly a year, and it triggered deadly mudslides. The region is now seeing record-setting heat.

The readings detailed Thursday show the drought has worsened to the severe category in 5 percent of the state. The last time even a small part of the state was rated in severe drought was last year.

However, Thursday's figures were far better than those during the peak of the state's epic dry spell, when 99.9 percent of California was in some stage of drought, and nearly half in the highest category.

But the drought never really seemed to lift in some Southern California areas, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at University of California, Los Angeles, noted this week.

Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California
In this Jan. 16, 2018 file photo, Mark Waissar, 49, is silhouetted against sunset as he walks on an overpass above the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, Calif. California's water managers are carrying out their mid-winter snowpack survey Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, as the winter's dry spell persists. Some Southern California areas including Los Angeles have received only one significant rain in months, and that rain, in January, caused deadly mudslides. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

In Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the lack of rain and dry vegetation were perfect fuel for a December wildfire that grew to become the largest recorded in state history. When it finally rained, the scorched earth turned into mudslides that sent earth, water and boulders roaring through neighborhoods.

In California's Central Valley, the nation's richest agricultural producer, government officials had to install water systems during and after the five-year drought for small towns such as East Porterville after household wells ran dry.

Even so, deliveries of bottled water continued this week to people outside East Porterville, said resident Elva Beltran, one of many volunteers who helped neighbors without water.

"it never ended," she said of the drought in her area.

Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California
In this April 10, 2017 file photo, boxes of bottled drinking water are seen in Hardwick, a small community in the San Joaquin Valley, where drought has yet to loosen its grip on some residents near Hanford, Calif. Rural residents whose wells went dry in California's record dry spell were still trucking in water this week as if the drought never ended. California's water managers are carrying out their mid-winter snowpack survey Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, as the winter's dry spell persists. (AP Photo/Scott Smith, File)

California's water managers trekked to the mountains on Thursday to check the snow depth—one gauge of the state water supply. Electronic sensors showed statewide snow levels at 27 percent of normal.

A bright spot, said Doug Carlson, spokesman for the state's Department of Water Resources, which carries out the snowpack surveys, was that reservoirs remain far fuller than usual thanks to last year's rain in the state's north.

Explore further

California gauges snowpack amid dry winter

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California (2018, February 1) retrieved 23 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-02-drought-deepens-southern-california.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Feb 01, 2018
Yep, the politicians really messed up last year when they declared the drought in California to be over. A whole lot of pressure from the public that acts as if they were still living in Massachusetts or Virginia. And insist on their God-given right to plant vegetation not evolved for this desert climate.

This article skipped the other source of water for Southern California. That is the Colorado Plateau snowpack that feeds the dams on the river.

A normal drought cycle for this entire region (west of the Rockies) can run for centuries. Yes there will be rain, sometimes major storm systems. That will always be just a temporary relief.

Feb 02, 2018
The world is in a La Nina weather pattern. We are also having a dryer than normal winter here in North Carolina. During La Nina, the whole southern half of the US is dryer than normal, conversely, during a La Nina, the whole southern half is wetter than normal.

Feb 02, 2018
given the choice of building more storage reservoirs or building a high speed train to nowhere. Every person in California knows what choices are being made in Sacramento. What Californians want.. they get.. Water apparently is not high on their list at this point

Feb 02, 2018
Let's all get real here for just a sec, shall we?
According to paleo-climatologists who have studied the climate record here going back at least 6,000 years, California has had droughts that lasted as long as 200 years. It was apparently settled in an unusually wet period that ended some time ago. What we have here now actually IS "normal" for this part of the country! All one need do to know this is to take a look at coastal vegetation from Baja up to almost the SF Bay area. You have things tough grasses, sage, and even cacti! That doesn't speak of a place with a lot of rain down low or snow up high on a regular and dependable basis!
The truth is that the L.A. basin and surrounding area was NEVER meant to support almost 20 million people! If the libtardiots who run this state had done their jobs, we'd have had new reservoirs to save last year's bounty for future need. But nnnooooo.......

Feb 02, 2018
I see many folk are unaware that we are still living on the infrastructure built by Democrat Pat Brown in the 1960s. The following Republican governors only catered to the rich, whose tax cuts took the money needed for infrastructure.

I know it is easy for conservatives to attack California, and their jealousy is apparent but irrelevant as long as they stay in their own states.

Feb 02, 2018
And their own true-blue fascist states are the beggars constantly wheedling subsidies from the red-blooded American liberal states every sensible person WANTS to live in.

From the headlines it would seem that nature does not spare the self-righteous any more than it spares the humanist.

If any of you fairytail altrights could be learned to read something besides comicbooks? California suffers a large bloc of conservative dullards. Who keep electing the same cabal of rapacious fossils. Who have plundered public moneys intended for infra-structure projects.

Every time some right-wing blowhard screams that a moderate or liberal politician is guilty of thinking? It won't be too long before one or more of the Faux News Love Boat are on trial for the crimes they accuse of others.

Feb 02, 2018
I was under the impression that most of the Southern parts of the Stae were desert before the development of the agi areas by the big farms. And doesn't this area and other parts of the State receive most of their water from the bordering States by a agreement that is currently under dispute by the States involved? If so and California loses this out of state water what is the prospect for continued agi in the area?

Feb 03, 2018
bd48, yes your comment was spot on. A large percentage of California's water supply is off the Colorado Plateau. Draining into the Colorado River down through a series of publicly-financed dams to Mexico.

"Pobre México. Muy lejos de Dios. Tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!"

Not only water for California and Arizona agriculture and cities but also electrical power. Hey, somebody has to keep all those Lost Wages light-bulbs blinking!

Feb 03, 2018
A reality check. a mortal danger to California's water supple is the removal of dams in northern California that will be sorely needed to supplement California's water in the greatest time of need this coming summer and fall.....fire season as if fire season ever really ends now. RIGHT NOW, some Indian tribes have gotten courts to foolishly order the destruction of two dams on the Klamath River, one being Copco Dam. The mathematically certain result of this will be dry wells in the valley watershed that drained into those dams, for as the contained water in those lakes goes to nothing, so certainly to will the water table go down. This will dry up wells all over those valleys and other valleys, as regulated water flows from Copco lake and another lake will cause those water tables to fall as well. The next result will be dry riverbeds with stagnant ponds ideal for disease causing mosquitos to breed and spread Lime Disease and other problems to locals. Just appealing

Feb 04, 2018
O1, first question, what were you doing stealing other peoples property and plundering the resources? The original owners want some sort of acknowledgement that they still have some pitiful remnant of sovereignty.

Your comment is that of the thieving vandals. Who whine that the court made them pay restitution and clean up the wasteland they leave behind where ever they go.

Feb 05, 2018
The weekly willis poetry competition
you fairytail altrights... bloc of conservative dullards... beggars constantly wheedling subsidies... spare the self-righteous... true-blue fascist states... plundering the resources... pitiful remnant of sovereignty... thieving vandals... wasteland...
-And the winner is...
same cabal of rapacious fossils
Rapacious fossils. CABAL of rapacious fossils.

Bwahaahaaaa kaf kaf fart

Do you wear a cape and your anonymous mask when you type this poop?

Feb 06, 2018
Yes Otto, I do and I look simply fabulous in it.

Ahh, I can feel the heat of your jealous tantrum from here!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more