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California's Drought Illustrated in One Shocking Image

By Sean Breslin
Published: February 27, 2014
California Snow Pack

The first photo, taken on Jan. 18, 2013, shows a healthy California snow pack. Exactly a year later, the second image, taken on Jan. 18, 2014, shows how awful California's drought is getting. (Images via NASA)

A lot has been said about the severe drought persisting across California, but the visual above shows the world how hopeless the situation has become.

The first image, depicting a far snowier Sierra Nevada mountain region, was taken by NASA's Terra satellite on Jan. 18, 2013. Exactly a year later – and one day after California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, urging residents to conserve water – the second image was captured, with very little snow covering only the highest elevations of the Sierras.

"February has offered some relief," said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. "Parts of the northern Sierra, particularly around Lake Tahoe, have been wetter than average in February."

(MORE: Here's How Much Rain and Snow California Could Receive)

The relief hasn't been enough to squash the drought, however. As of Wednesday's measurements, California's snow water equivalent is just 22 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Central portions of the Sierra are reporting 29 percent of normal, the highest snow water equivalent of any region in the mountain range.

Good news is on the way as a more active pattern of storm systems will begin rushing into California this week and is expected continue through the weekend. Rain will fall on most of the state, while much-needed snow will reach the higher elevations.

While the precipitation will be welcomed by a parched state that desperately needs it to keep the water supply flowing through the summer months, serious concerns remain about a lingering drought that will require far more rain to kill. If the rain doesn't come in the next few weeks, it would have to fall in months that are traditionally dry.

MORE: Wildfire Threatens a Los Angeles Suburb Back in January

Firefighters monitor the Colby fire burning for a second day on a hillside on Highway 39 in Azusa, California. (Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images)


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