Drought Report Shows Only Short-Term Gains for California After Storms

Recent rain and snow did little to improve drought conditions as the state enters another stretch of warm and dry weather

Spring showers and snow in northern California provided only short-term improvements for some parts of a drought-stricken state facing another stretch of warm and dry weather, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report.

The report (scroll down to view map), issued weekly, tracks drought conditions across the country. Drought Monitor researchers use five categories to indicate drought intensity -- Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate (D1), Severe (D2), Extreme (D3) and Exceptional (D4).

The storm system that brought rain to much of the state this week and snow to the Sierra Nevada range, runoff from which provides a key source of water for the state, reduced drought intensity in some areas. The northern California areas that received the most precipitation saw a one-category improvement from Extreme Drought (D3) to Severe Drought (D2).

Liquid precipitation accumulation in northern California ranged from 2 to 6 inches in coastal mountains. The northern Sierras received 3 to 11 inches.

Last week, 71 percent of the state was in the Extreme and Exceptional drought categories. This week, 68 percent of the state fell into those two categories.

"Despite short-term gains, the long-term deficits across the region remained substantial," according to the drought report.

The report comes during the same week that researchers measured the vital Sierra snowpack, which is supposed to be at peak levels this time of year. The snowpack measured 32-percent of normal Tuesday.

Before the recent storms, California's snow-water content was estimated to be at 25 percent of normal. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is important because it stores water that melts in the spring as runoff.

Communities and agricultural areas depend on it during California's hot, dry summers.

California is in its third consecutive dry year, and in January Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency.


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