California Drought Reaches New Level of Severity Never Recorded on U.S. Drought Monitor in the State

By Chris Dolce
Published: January 31, 2014

California's historic drought reached a new milestone Thursday when the newly released U.S. Drought Monitor showed that exceptional drought now covers 9 percent of the state.

(MORE: Stunning Before and After Photos of California's Depleted Lakes)


Drought Monitor

Exceptional drought (darkest red) now covers nine percent of California.

This is the worst possible category of drought in the analysis and is the first time since the Drought Monitor analysis was started in 2000 that any part of the Golden State has seen exceptional drought. The exceptional drought extends from north to south across parts of 11 counties including, southeast Santa Cruz, far southern Santa Clara, San Benito, Merced, western Fresno, eastern Monterey, eastern San Luis Obispo, western Kern, western Madera, Kings and southwest Tulare.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor report, impacts in the exceptional drought area range from wells running dry to no food sources for cattle to graze on, forcing livestock to be sold off.

Extreme drought coverage, the second worst category, also increased over the previous week to 67 percent. This is nearly double the coverage of extreme drought that was recorded in the 2007 drought (35 percent), which previously had the highest percentage of extreme drought prior to January 2014.

(MORE: Lack of Snowpack on Mount Shasta Shows California Drought)

In what is typically one of the wettest months of the year, January 2014 has turned out to be among the driest in history for some cities. Here's a few examples:

  • San Francisco: This was the first January in recorded history with less than a quarter inch of rain. Through Jan. 30, the city had just one-hundredth of an inch of rain.
  • Los Angeles: No measurable rain fell in Los Angeles during January for only the fifth time since 1878.
  • Redding, Sacramento, Stockton: All recorded their third driest January.

MORE: Drought Landscapes

Drought-scarred ground. (Thinkstock/Jupiterimages/Getty Images)



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