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Drought Conditions Improving after Atmospheric Rivers Drench California

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A look at the progress so far as another storm looms

California has been some form of drought condition for most of the time since 2008. By September 2022 there were severe drought conditions in nearly all of the state. This was exacerbated by the driest first three months of any year at the beginning of 2022. Although December 2021 had precipitation and the snow pack was improved somewhat, it was not enough and this led to the extreme drought conditions by fall 2022.

Atmospheric Rivers are a dangerous threat, but also bring large amounts of moisture

Another storm front of this type is expected for the weekend, and, while most of us have had more than enough of the floods and generally wet nasty conditions, the chances for improving the historic drought extremes have increased and we can continue to benefit.

The atmospheric rivers that we’ve seen in near continuous succession have brought a significant amount of rain, snow and moisture, making this one of the wettest winters in the record books.

It has, unfortunately, also been a destructive and deadly series of storms and there is still a danger that that aspect of the phenomenon will continue as well.

The US Drought Monitor has data on the situation continuously compiled, and as can be seen in the maps above there has been some meaningful improvement in the severity of the drought conditions. In particular, the worst areas have been brought back from the most extreme designation toward a somewhat more moderate state.

Much of the water that flows throughout California has melting snow, mostly from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, as its source. In the best case, abundant snow fall during the winter, which creates a kind of natural reservoir, is released during the warmer weather in spring and early summer.

With a large storm this weekend, and perhaps at least one more wet episode before the seasons change, the snow pack could reach “above normal” levels, which would be a big help to the still dry condition in the state. It is even possible that the storms could help fuel a spectacular super bloom, like we had in 2019

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