A new drought map released Thursday shows the impact of California’s wet start to winter. It’s not a miracle, but major improvements are visible when you compare this week’s drought conditions with the situation just two weeks ago.
As of Tuesday (the most recent data available), no part of California was classified in the worst drought category, “exceptional drought.” Two weeks ago, on Dec. 27, 7% of the state was in that most severe category.
The biggest improvements are in the Central Valley, where the maroon-shaded “exceptional drought” classification has disappeared entirely. The area of California in the next-worst category, also shrunk by about 8%.
Compare the differences between this week’s map and two weeks ago in the slider photos below.
Even with weeks of rain, about 98% of the state is still considered to be in a “moderate drought” or worse.
January’s storms won’t be enough to officially end the state’s ongoing drought, now entering its fourth year, officials say.
“This is really going to help a lot with the short-term drought in Northern California, perhaps even erase short-term drought conditions, but it’s going to take a lot more to completely obviate the longer term, multi-year drought impacts,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, told CNN.
The storm drenching California this week is the latest of three atmospheric rivers in the last week to reach the drought-stricken state. At least two people have died in connection with the latest storm.
Atmospheric rivers, named by researchers in the 1990s, occur globally but are especially significant on the U.S. West Coast, where they create 30% to 50% of annual precipitation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The U.S. Drought Monitor updates its maps every Thursday. Parts of the state are expected to see rain every day between now and then, so we may see even more improvement in drought conditions next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.