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Long-Term Drought Persists In California

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows / Courtesy

The near normal snowfall in the northern Sierra Nevada helped some ski areas around Lake Tahoe extend their seasons into May 2016.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows / Courtesy

The U.S. Drought Monitor released May 5 shows some minor improvement in California drought conditions. But looking ahead to the dry season shows drought persisting for a fifth consecutive year in the Golden State.

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In California, some moderate drought was removed in the northern portion of the state. The extreme northwest portion of the state accounts for the 4.27 percent of California where there is no drought.

But 96 percent remains abnormally dry, with 89 percent in moderate, 74 percent in severe, 49 percent in extreme and 21 percent in exceptional drought.

"Dryness returned to portions of the Pacific Northwest over the last several weeks, and this allowed for abnormally dry conditions to be introduced over central and northeast Oregon," according to the report.

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Statewide snowpack is at 59 percent of normal in the Sierra Nevada, but the southern Sierra is 45 percent of normal, compared to 60 percent for the northern Sierra.

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Reservoir storage in California also reflects the north-south precipitation split over the winter, which benefitted the state’s largest reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville, but left reservoirs in the southern part of the state wanting.

050516 DROMON-Reservoirs Updated

Water conservation requirements have been eased by California water managers following a winter that brought heavy precipitation to some parts of the state.

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The U.S. Monthly and Seasonal Drought Outlooks from the NOAA/NWS Climate Prediction Center shows drought persists with long-term drought entrenched over most of California.


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The 6-10 day outlooks show that the chances for above-normal temperatures are greatest over the East Coast, West Coast, and Great Basin as well as Alaska, while the best chances for below-normal temperatures will be over the northern and southern Plains. Chances for below-normal precipitation are best over the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

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