Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:39 PM GMT on June 06, 2014
California Drought Update; Big Improvement in Texas
The rainy season is essentially over for California. Although it officially does not come to a close until June 30th, the odds of any further precipitation this month anywhere in the state (aside from scattered thunderstorms in the Sierra and desert southeast) are extremely small. That’s the bad news. The good news is a tremendous improvement in drought conditions in Texas. Here’s a brief review.
California Drought Situation
As of June 5th, the entire state of California remains under ‘severe to exceptional’ drought conditions. This will not change until at least next November. NOAA.
No late season miracle occurred precipitation-wise during May in most of California and it is, as mentioned above, highly unlikely any further rainfall will occur in the next three weeks as the water season draws to a close on June 30th. Statewide the season’s (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014) percentage of annual average precipitation stands at 49.7%. This makes this the driest season (statewide) since the record set in 1976-1977 which was 42.4%. Below is a table of seasonal precipitation to date (as of June 6) compared to the average total seasonal precipitation (July 1-June 30) for a selection of major California cities arranged geographically from north to south. What is interesting (and historically almost unprecedented) is how evenly distributed the lack of precipitation has been across the large state of California. Even in past historic drought years there has usually been some part of the state that received significantly more or less moisture than some other part. Not this past year.
Seasonal precipitation as of June 6th for a selection of California cities (arranged geographically north to south) compared to what the normal total seasonal precipitation (July 1-June 30) should be. It is unlikely any additional rainfall will occur this month at any of these sites with the exception of Eureka and Redding which normally would see .50” between June 6-30.
The state’s reservoirs are ending the season at 69% of normal capacity. This is the 2nd lowest such on record, which was just 45% in 1977 at the end of the water year.
Major reservoir capacities as of June 6th. The average statewide stands at 69% of average. Map from California Department of Water Resources.
In response to the drought, state officials have relaxed some environmental restrictions on water allocations to help drought-stricken agricultural land in the Central Valley. Some local communities have begun water-rationing but, so far, no statewide adoption of such has been instituted. This, I’m sure, will change very soon. Many residents are clinging to the hope that a developing El Niño will bring relief to the drought next water season. These hopes have little basis in reality since only very strong El Niño’s, like the last one of 1997-1998, actually impact seasonal precipitation across the entire state. Current models indicate the coming El Niño will be of only ‘moderate’ strength. This may have an impact on the southern third of the state but, historically, moderate El Niño’s have not influenced rainfall patterns one way or the other for the northern two-thirds of California.
Texas Drought Situation
Unlike California, there has been a tremendous improvement to the overall drought situation in Texas over the course of the past two weeks. A comparison of the drought monitor maps for May 20th and June 3rd tell the story:
Drought monitor maps for May 20th (top) and June 3rd (bottom) show how recent heavy rainfall has helped alleviate the drought situation in much of the hardest hit regions of Texas. NOAA
Since the June 3rd map was released, additional heavy rainfall has occurred in the areas still under ‘exceptional’ drought conditions. Just this morning (June 6th) Amarillo picked up a flooding 1.34” of rain during a thunderstorm. This brings Amarillo’s year-to-date precipitation up to 6.05”, close to the normal of 6.93”. However, not everyone in Texas has benefited form the recent rains. Wichita Falls missed out on the big rain event in late May and is still enduring a ‘Stage 4 drought disaster’ (out of a possible five stages; Stage 5 is termed a ‘Drought Catastrophe’). Since January 1st only 5.10” of precipitation has fallen compared to normal 12.35” for the period (as of June 5th).
Christopher C. Burt
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