An egret searches for food in a nearly dry canal near Red Bluff in Northern California. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
By Joseph Serna LATIMES July 31 2014
- More than half of California now in exceptional drought, federal report says
- Drought conditions in California worst in report’s history, official says
More than half of California is now under the most severe level of drought for the first time since the federal government began issuing regular drought reports in the late 1990s, according to new data released Thursday. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor report, in July roughly 58% of California was considered to be experiencing an “exceptional” drought — the harshest on a five-level scale.
This is the first year that any part of California has seen that level of drought, let alone more than half of it, said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, which issued the report. “You keep beating the record, which are still all from this year,” he said.
The entire state has been in severe drought since May, but more of it has since fallen into more severe categories — “extreme” and “exceptional.” Nearly 22% more of California was added into the exceptional drought category in the last week alone….
An overview of California’s ongoing and extraordinary drought: a tale of exceptional dryness and record warmth
Droughts historically have a way of sneaking up on California, and the extraordinary 2012-2014 drought has been no exception.
Year-to-year and even season-to-season rainfall variability is quite high in this part of the world, which means that it’s nearly impossible to know whether a single dry year (or season) portends the beginning of a much more prolonged or intense dry period. Indeed–the 2012-2013 rainy season had an extremely wet start–so wet, in fact, that an additional large storm during December 2012 would likely have led to serious and widespread flooding throughout Northern California. But no additional significant storms did occur during December 2012–nor during January 2013…nor February, March, April, or May. In fact, January-June 2013 was the driest start to the calendar year on record for the state of California in at least 118 years of record keeping. Some parts of the state saw virtually no precipitation at all during this period, which made for an especially stark contrast with the extremely wet conditions experienced just a few months earlier….