NOAA: The Drought In California Is Only Getting Worse

NOAA: The Drought In California Is Only Getting Worse

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NOAA: The Drought In California Is Only Getting Worse

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Amount of rain and snow (as water equivalent) for the state of California over December – March each year since 1948, shown as the departure from the 1981-2010 average (dark gray bars; scale on left). The December – February Niño3.4 Index (Oceanic Niño Index) is shown in overlay (scale on right). Pink bars = El Niño conditions, blue bars = La Niña, light gray = neutral. Data from NOAA Climate Divisions data | Graph: climate.gov.

Amount of rain and snow for the state of California over December – March each year since 1948, shown as the departure from the 1981-2010 average (dark gray bars; scale on left). The December – February Niño is shown in overlay (scale on right). Pink bars = El Niño conditions, blue bars = La Niña, light gray = neutral

[Cover Photo: NOAA/Andrew Williams]

As news of an oncoming La Niña event continues to circulate amongst ski industry publications, California is holding out hope that a La Niña winter will end their historic drought. NOAA’s recommendation?

Don’t hold your breath

According to Utah Climate scientist Simon Wang, California will suffer from drought conditions for a long time. Wang’s article, which starts by pointing out how the past season had a marginal impact on current drought conditions, indicates that California’s groundwater deficit will only make the drought last longer. Also, he’s not very optimistic about the prospective La Niña, which usually results in below average precipitation for California.

“Roughly speaking, El Niño tends to bring rain, and La Niña tends to withhold it. (Although this past winter is an excellent example of how what’s expected doesn’t always happen.)”Simon Wang, Utah Climate Center/Department Utah State University

And while El Niño did offer some relief to the drought stricken Sierra, its effects will likely not last long. Wang thinks the main problem is the excess use of groundwater in the state of California. The overuse, which has caused a significant deficit in the past 50 years, creates a significant lag time between droughts ending and groundwater supplies rebounding. Wang says that as California’s population increases and the drought lengthens those groundwater reservoirs will take longer to refill.

Wang’s conclusion? 

“Current groundwater storage in the Central Valley will likely continue to diminish further in 2017, even though the recent El Niño somewhat mitigated the drought.”

Find the entire NOAA post here: The long arm of the California drought

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