Not even storms can stop California’s drought
click image to zoomThe Drought Monitor map of California, released on August 7, 2014. A strange thing happened to California during its historic drought – it rained. But even the rare summer deluge wasn’t enough to bring anything but “isolated chaos” and flash flooding to the state desperate for drought relief.
According to the latest Drought Monitor report, more than 81 percent of the Golden State is in extreme or worse drought.
Drought Conditions were virtually unchanged from last week’s report, even after rare summer rains roared through Southern California. It may have dumped more than 4 inches of rain across the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, but it was just a mere drop in alleviating the state’s drought.
“What we had was isolated chaos in a few remote locations,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge told the Los Angeles Daily News in an article here. “An hour later we were left with a big mess.
“But certainly no drought relief.”
The USDA’s Brad Rippey, who wrote this week’s Drought Monitor report, added that long-term benefits from the rain were inconsequential, but there were some short-term benefits, such as “reduced irrigation demands and evaporation rates; lower temperatures in the wake of record-setting heat; and temporary relief for drought-stressed rangeland and pastures.”
Rippey points to three reasons California’s rain failed to make a dramatic impact on the drought.
He wrote, “Reasons that California’s rain did not provide substantial drought relief included: 1) a lack of widespread coverage of the heaviest showers, 2) the fact that heavy showers mostly fell outside California’s key watershed areas in the Colorado River basin and the Sierra Nevada, and 3) the fact that the high runoff rate of the heaviest rain did not allow for significant percolation into drought-parched soils.”
In just one year, California has gone from no report of extreme or exceptional drought to 81 percent today. Drought conditions at these levels have removed 50 percent since January. With El Nino’s prospects fizzling, California’s drought woes won’t likely end soon.
Some even worry that if California’s drought weren’t scary enough, it could even trigger earthquakes as the state drains groundwater reserves near the San Andreas Fault.
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