Back at the beginning of October, when California’s current water year started, the state was deep in drought following one of its driest years on record.
Nearly half of California was experiencing “exceptional” drought — the most severe category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which keeps track of such figures. More than 87% of the state faced at least “extreme” drought.
Flash forward three months later, and a precipitation-filled October and December helped ameliorate the state’s water problem, at least to some degree.
“The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows quite a bit of improvement over the last few week thanks to the above normal precip in Dec.,” the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office tweeted Thursday. “Short term drought has improved but long term impacts remain.”
Take a look at the current map:
In an especially hopeful sign, a tiny sliver of the top northwestern part of the state that borders Oregon is measuring as “abnormally dry,” meaning it’s nearly out of drought. The percentage (0.7%) is almost as much as the part of the state that is still in “exceptional” drought (0.84%).
Nearly 16% of the state is mired in the second-most intense “extreme” category, while about 50% is in “severe” drought.
But in yet another encouraging sign, about one-third of California is experiencing “moderate” drought. That’s the highest portion of the state in over a year in the category, which is right above the abnormally dry.
Here’s what the state looked like at the beginning of October compared to the start of the new year:
There’s also been fairly dramatic advances just in the past two weeks, thanks to a barrage of powerful storms that brought much-needed rain and snow across the parched state around Christmas and during the last week of the year.
The last system to reach Southern California lingered for days, bringing rainfall totals of up to 9 inches and as much as 18 inches of snow in the Los Angeles County area. The totals helped fuel the wettest December in over a decade for many parts of the region, according to the weather service.
As a result of that precipitation, all of L.A. County was pushed out of the “extreme” category, and nearly all of the region moved beyond “severe” to “moderate” conditions, the federal data shows.
Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties saw improvements as well.
Here’s what the maps looked like before and after those storms:
Overall, California’s had a tremendous start to the water year that started Oct. 1, 2021. In the first three months, the state has already recorded more precipitation than in the previous year, which ended Sept. 30, 2021.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, the water year volume was at 33.9 trillion gallons. During all of the 2020-2021 period, that figure was 33.6 trillion gallons.
Like many locations in the Golden State, L.A. County has also exceeded totals over the last water year — in some cases by more than 200%, NWS said.
Still, California will need sustained rain and snow through the winter for the state’s drought to show any long-term progress.
“While we are off to a great start to the 2022 Water Year, these are only a few early storms and we still have the remainder of our wettest months historically ahead of us,” the state’s Department of Water Resources said in a Dec. 30 blog post. “It is crucial that we get rain and snow during those months to truly ease drought impacts.”