We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 
 We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 

California Drought Persists; 2014 Warmest Year On Record

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / AP

In this handout image provided by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists fly over the Tuolumne River Basin of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range to measure the snowpack on Sunday, March 23, 2014.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / AP

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that the U.S. average temperature in 2014 was half a degree warmer than normal and weather was less disastrous than previous years.

It was the 18th straight year the contiguous U.S. was warmer than the 20th-century average, but only the 34th warmest in the 1895-2014 record. The 2014 annual average contiguous U.S. temperature was 52.6°F, 0.5°F above the 20th century average.

NOAA also said the average contiguous U.S. precipitation was 30.76 inches, 0.82 inch above average, and ranked as the 40th wettest year in the 120-year period of record.

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center 2014 U.S. Climate Report said California, Nevada and Arizona had their warmest year on record.

0108 Weather

NOAA reported that in 2014, there were eight weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States, below the average of 10 in the last five years. Those events include the western U.S. drought.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor reported that the drought persists in California and Nevada.

0108 Cali Weather p

"Nevada’s reservoir storage remained extremely low—only 21 percent of average at the end of 2014, compared to 30 percent on December 31, 2013," the report stated in its summary for the West, including California. "By January 6, the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack averaged just 5 inches—43 percent of normal for this time of year."

0108 Cali Weather 2 p

The report added that water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack in an average year typically approaches 30 inches by April 1 according to the California Department of Water Resources. 

"In other words, the current Sierra Nevada snowpack contains only 17 percent of the water typically available when the melt season begins in the spring," the report states, pointing to the below normal snowpack.

The DWR's December snow survey showed that the amount of water in the snow statewide is 50 percent of average.

Low groundwater reserves; Pacific Northwest snowpack "a concern"

The summary said that closer to the Pacific Coast, some water systems not dependent on Sierra snow are doing better in terms of reservoir storage.

But the western summary indicated that dry times will continue to stretch California and Nevada's water supply.

"Ongoing impacts of the 3½-year drought along California’s northern coast—and elsewhere in the state—include low groundwater reserves and stress on native vegetation and perennial crops such as orchards and vineyards."

The drought report did show that statewide reservoir storage in many western states was higher on December 31, 2014 than a year ago.

  • Wyoming (124% of average vs. 92%)
  • Montana (112 vs. 104%)
  • Idaho (106 vs 84%) Colorado (103 vs 88%)
  • Washington (99 vs. 76%) Utah (98 vs. 91%)
  • Oregon (79 vs. 68%). 

"Nevertheless, one concern facing the Northwest—especially in the Cascades and coastal ranges—is the lack of snowpack due to periods of warmth and the large number of “warm” storms," stated the report.  "In early-January 2015, the basin-average water content of the snowpack was mostly less than half of normal for this time of year from the Cascades westward, despite above-normal precipitation since October 1, 2014."

Sign up for ReCap

and never miss the top stories

Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Check out a sample ReCap newsletter.