Out of the Drought?

December 2016 brought rain and lots of it! Parts of California had record breaking rainfall this past winter, which fortunately improved conditions of the extensive dry conditions in the state of California.

At this time last year, California was in a severe drought. In fact, 97 percent of the state was in a drought for five years. Residents had to cut down on everything that involved using water, from their showers to watering their grass. The environment was badly affected as well. Hills in the Central Valley were brown from the dried grass and reservoirs across the state were losing water.

The dry-spell was seemingly neverending. And yet, even with record rainfall, there is a still a hanging question if California will ever be out of the drought.

Eugene Cordero, Professor of meteorology and climate science at San Jose State University, believes that’s currently the case with most of the state.

“Last year we had average rainfall, which has doubled this year,” Eugene said. “Are we out of the drought? Yeah, probably.”

Though we may be out of the drought, Governor Jerry Brown has not declared the state completely out of a drought emergency. A portion of Imperial County is still suffering from a severe drought, which makes up one percent of the state.

While the rain refilled watersheds, it also caused a lot of problems. 

Severe floods and mudslides hit much of Northern California after experiencing rain week-after-week, causing major roads to close. Residents in San Jose faced horrific flooding that caused extensive damage to homes and cars.

Cordero explained the cause of the intense rainfall was due to storms rolling in from the south. Pineapple Express, a sort of atmospheric river storm, reached California in February 2017 and brought heavy rain and strong winds with it. Days of rain closed schools due to overflowing rivers, dams and roads.

Warm air was a contributing factor to the flooding in the Bay Area as well. According to Cordero, a warmer atmosphere can produce heavier and more intense rainfall because it holds more water than cool air.

Now as we are in April, the storm season has passed in California, and warm weather has returned. However, the state has not seen the last of the rain. According to weather reports, rainy days will return in the following weeks, probably not as intense as the previous Pineapple Express system, but the Bay Area will experience it for consecutive days.

Overall, the improved weather conditions in the state of California has left us with a positive outlook for summer. With a wet season now, our summer should clear of any drought conditions.

It’s important to understand the weather of your state and to be ready for any disasters, whether it be a drought or a flood. You can find resources online via your city’s website or at Weather Underground.