Nearly a month of warm and dry weather "rapidly diminished" the benefits of late-winter storms that swept through California as extreme drought returned to areas that saw slight improvement after a few days of precipitation, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor.
The drought report, released each Thursday, provides updates on California's water crisis and week-to-week comparisons of drought intensity throughout the state. This week's summary contains more disappointment for areas suffering amid the dry spell as extreme (Category D3) drought conditions -- the second-most intense drought condition -- returned to coastal areas north of San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada range.
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"The benefits of the February and early-March precipitation rapidly diminished across California and the Southwest as unseasonable warmth and dryness increased water demands and depleted snowpacks," according to the March 20 report.
The Monitor uses five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).
More than 70 percent of the state falls into the extreme or exceptional (Category D4) drought category. Last week, about 65 percent was designated as under extreme or exceptional drought.
No drought relief is in sight, according to the report. Most of the precipitation will stay well to the north and east of California, where unseasonably warm temperatures are expected for a large part of the state.
The weekly report comes at the same time the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its Spring Outlook for drought-stricken California. The NOAA report notes California -- which experienced its third-driest winter on record -- could be in for even more intense drought conditions that might "result in an active wildfire season, continued stress on crops and livestock due to low water levels, and an expansion of water conservation measures."