Snow eases California drought and restores water levels but more needed

California Snowstorm Restores Water Levels, but more Precipitation Required

California has been experiencing a drought for the past three years, but the recent snowstorm that hit the state’s inland mountains has caused an unprecedented amount of snowfall. The amount of snow has surpassed the historical snowfall records, with more than 12 feet of new snowfall in some areas. The Central and Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains have snowpack that is twice the amount of a normal year, thanks to the past two weeks’ snowfall. The blizzard had 70-mile-per-hour winds and blinding snow that covered up the snowshoe tracks minutes after they were made.

The recent spate of storms lifted the statewide snowpack to 190 percent of average for the start of the month, and more snow is on the way. The snow has helped alleviate the drought conditions, but more precipitation is needed. Even though major reservoirs across the state are at 96 percent of average levels, the state’s groundwater supplies, drawn down during the past dry decade, will not recover quickly, water authorities said.

The warming climate has contributed to these extreme wet and dry periods, according to Michael Anderson, the state climatologist. The warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, while also breaking down typical jet stream patterns, allowing cold air to move further south than normal. Even after all the snow and rain, state authorities have yet to declare the drought officially dead. Nevertheless, the water supply, and the projections for once the snow starts melting in the spring, have dramatically improved.

California’s drought has been a major problem for farmers, with a record number of wells in the Central Valley running dry. It led to farmers fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres, residents in the Los Angeles area being told to stop watering lawns, and state officials projecting dry La Nina conditions would persist, leading to a fourth year of drought. The recent snowstorm has provided a much-needed reprieve from the drought, but California still requires more precipitation to replenish the state’s groundwater supply.