Drought Returns to California Due to Lengthening Dry Winter; 9.5% of State in ‘Moderate Drought’

Sheep graze in a dry field near the town of McFarland in California's Central Valley on Aug. 24, 2016.(Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Sheep graze in a dry field near the town of McFarland in California's Central Valley on Aug. 24, 2016.(Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Drought has returned to California due to a significantly dry winter, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday.

The weekly report designates just over 9.5% of the state, including the central and southern Sierra Nevada and adjacent areas of the Central Valley, as being in moderate drought.

California had been drought-free since the early December.

The Drought Monitor also expanded a designation of “abnormally dry” into San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and parts of northeastern California.

A week earlier the abnormally dry status applied to the Central Valley and a swath from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Sierra, as well as parts of the California-Oregon border.

In particular, the monitor pointed to precipitation deficits in central and southern sections of coastal California and in the central and southern Sierra, and a snowpack that is less than 60% of normal to date.

The National Weather Service office for the Los Angeles region said no change in the dry pattern is expected in the next two weeks and if there’s no rain many locations will be nearing the driest combined January and February on record.

State water authorities have noted that, fortunately, reservoirs are either at or above historical averages due to a wet 2019.

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