By: Carson Van Vooren
Is 2017 the year the 6-year-long drought in California ends?
This January, the entire state of California endured a harsh month of rain, snow, and ice. California has not had such a rainy season since the drought began in 2011. Now we just have one question－ will California swim out of this drought in 2017? It’s probable, but we first need to know what caused this water shortage, and how California has been surviving these six long years.
With years of below-average rainfall from 2011-2014, the water levels of the main water reservoirs, including Shasta Lake, Folsom Lake, and Castaic Lake, and more, began to plummet, and the dearth started to become recognized as－ a drought.
2013’s winter season gave no relief, due to the record-breaking zero inches of snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is a monumental water source that the state uses. This made a huge impact and fueled the fires wracking the state even further. Despite this, Californians had another hope, also known as “El Niño.”
The El Niño is a weather phenomenon in which the water temperatures near the equator are 1-2 degrees higher than average, causing more condensation, which also causes more clouds, which essentially, causes more rain. The “2014-2015 El Niño” was tied with the “1998 El Niño” for being the warmest El Niño on record. How did the 2014-2015 El Niño help our drought? Not by much. What should’ve been an above average rainy season, ended up falling short. While it did bring some much-needed rain, the precipitation didn’t fall into the right places, and there wasn’t enough of it in order to fill the dire need.
While hopes for ending the drought were dwindling, the 2015-2016 winter season definitely surprised us. The yearly Sierra Nevada Survey ( April 1st) measured－ According to saveourwater.com, “...snow that was 58.4 inches deep at Phillips with a water content of 26 inches, just 97 percent of the long-term average there.” This helped our state very much in the 2016 spring-summer season.
While the 2016-2017 winter season hasn’t finished yet, 42% of California is out of the drought thanks to the persistent storms, snowstorms, and flooding during the winter season. Last Friday, (Jan 20, 2017,) Southern California was hit with three huge storms. Each of the storms hit the entire state within three days－ Respectively, one storm per day.
Based off of the updated map, the drought in California has dramatically taken a turn for the better. Around ~50% of the state is now drought free, and now zero percent of California is in the category of an exceptional drought, which is the most severe form of a drought.
These maps bring a very promising outlook for the state of California’s future with the current conditions. State officials still urge to conserve water in order to negate the chances of a drought during the upcoming summer months.
If we get enough snow, and with another potential storm system on the way, this year the state of California might splash its way out of the drought for good.
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