An early-season storm that blanketed mountains from Northern California to the Central Valley with snow showed tangible results on the state’s historic drought, new federal data show.
Two areas of California considered to be in “exceptional” drought were upgraded to the “extreme” category — the best either area has seen since at least the beginning of summer, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
A third area also was upgraded from extreme to severe, an even better improvement.
That area had been in exceptional drought since early July. Farther south, in Mono and Inyo counties, two swaths of land that had been in exceptional drought since January and February were finally upgraded. One area bordering Nevada also moved into the severe category.
The U.S. Drought Monitor report, which comes out weekly and provides a glimpse of the nation’s drought status by region, called the rain and snow an “early bonus” for California’s water year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
The past six months have been unusually wet in the eastern part of the state, the report said, also laying the groundwork for more gains on the state’s drought if there’s a large El Niño rain season as many experts predict.
“This past 6 months of wetness in a semi-arid environment is significant and a good start to … the water year,” it said.
There needs to be more snow in the Sierra Nevada, however, for experts to upgrade those areas. Much of the mountain range remains in the worst category. Less than two-tenths of a percent of California is not under some level of drought.
This spring, researchers found that the amount of water contained in the snow on April 1 was 5% of the average snow-water equivalent since monitoring began.
A new federal forecast released in October showed the upcoming El Niño could bring rains into Northern California, reaching more vital reservoirs than previously predicted. El Niño is a weather phenomenon that involves warming sea-surface temperatures and a change in wind that alters weather patterns in the atmosphere worldwide.
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