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)


Ad Blocker Enabled

Featured Blogs

Extreme 'Grey Swan' Hurricanes in Tampa Bay: a Potential Future Catastrophe

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 26, 2016

Hurricanes more extreme than any observed in recorded history can occur in a warming climate, and can be anticipated by combining physical knowledge with historical data. The risk of such “grey swan” hurricanes for Tampa, Florida may increase by up to a factor of fourteen by the end of the century, thanks to our changing climate.

Hottest Reliably Measured Air Temperatures on Earth

By Christopher C. Burt
July 22, 2016

As Jeff Masters mentioned in his recent blog, a temperature of 54.0°C (129.2°F) was observed at Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21st. According to the Kuwait Meteorological Department this was the hottest temperature ever measured in the country (a reading of 54.4°C/129.9°F observed at the same site on July 16, 2010 has been disallowed as a result of a faulty sensor). The 54.0°C reading also is a new record for Asia and ties a similar reading at Death Valley (on June 30, 2013) as the hottest reliably measured temperature on Earth. The key word here is ‘reliably’. Many hotter temperatures have been reported from around the world in years past. However, all of these have credibility issues. In that vein I am going to revisit a blog I first posted on WU in October 2010 listing all the various claims to temperature readings at or above 54°C (129.2°F). In the years since I made that post I’ve learned more about some of these claims and have thus updated my entries and ‘validity’ scores as a result.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.