See dramatic change in California’s drought in just 1 week

California
Side-by-side maps show California's drought conditions improved between Dec. 21 and Dec. 28. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Side-by-side maps show California’s drought conditions improved between Dec. 21 and Dec. 28. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

The U.S. Drought Monitor released new data on California’s drought conditions Thursday – and what a difference a week makes.

The map, which includes data as recent as Tuesday, shows remarkable improvement from last week’s conditions. The portion of the state in “exceptional drought,” the most severe category, dropped from 23% to 0.84%.

Last week, the majority of California (about 79%) was in “extreme drought,” shown in bright red on the map above. This week, that area has narrowed quite a bit, to a band that runs down the state’s center. Now, only 33% of the state is experiencing “extreme drought” conditions.

As storms continued to dump rain on much of Southern California and snow covered mountain peaks Thursday, we could see an even better map this time next week.

The Sierra Nevada range has seen more snow than in over a decade, and that’s good news for California’s snowpack. One spot near Lake Tahoe has recorded a whopping 17 feet of snow so far, a record for the month of December.

California received even more good news on Thursday when results of the first snowpack survey of the winter were released, revealing that the state’s snow water content was 160% of normal for the time this year. Once it melts in the late spring and summer, the snowpack provided about one-third of the state’s water supply.

“Obviously we are off to a great start,” said Sean de Guzman, the manager of the Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting section of California’s Department of Water Resources.

But, he urged caution, noting that promising starts in December don’t always lead to more wet weather through the winter. He also noted that the vast majority of California’s reservoirs remain below average.

“We still have a long way to go for our wet season,” de Guzman said. “And we need more and more of these storms to keep coming through.”

KTLA’s Tracy Bloom contributed to this story.

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