In rare good news on the California drought, extremely dry conditions in northern parts of the state improved by 10% after a series of strong storms.
This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor reports extreme conditions throughout the state dropped from 77% last week to 67%. The positive change occurred mostly in northwestern California and the Santa Cruz Mountains between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. The northern half of the Santa Lucia Range, which is along the Central Coast, also saw drought conditions improve.
Patterns are created and reflected from water receding on the bed of Folsom Lake. As the state ends the fourth-driest water year on record with no guarantee of significant rain and snow this winter, Californians face the prospect of stricter rationing and meager irrigation deliveries.
A translucent freshwater bryozoa is illuminated by the rising sun on the receding banks of Folsom Lake, which was 35% of capacity as of Sept. 30. One of the lake’s five boat ramps remains in operation and boaters are restricted to 5 mph.
The effects of California’s ongoing drought are evident at Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet as shells, once under water, lie in the soil of recently exposed banks.
Severe drought conditions reveal more than 600 empty docks sitting on dry, cracked dirt at Folsom Lake Marina, which is one of the largest inland marinas in California.
Extremely low levels of water flowing through meandering streams of the east fork of the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest show the effects of the prolonged drought. The water flows into the San Gabriel Dam and the Morris Dam, further downstream.
Meanwhile, exceptional drought in California — the most severe classification — remained unchanged at nearly 40%.
A series of strong Pacific storms brought much-needed rainfall to Northern California, according to David Simeral, a research scientist with the Western Regional Climate Center.
Portions of Northern California were battered by widespread heavy downpours last weekend, bringing the “first significant precipitation” since December, he said.
The storms were subtropical, so most of the moisture was rain and had little effect on snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The storm system dumped 3 to 15 inches of rain across the Northern California region. Three to 10 inches fell in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Runoff from the storm, however, added 500,000 acre-feet of water to California’s four major reservoirs – Folsom, Oroville, Shasta and Trinty, he said.
But even with all the rain, some reservoir storage is still low, Simeral said.
The last week was also unseasonably warm for the entire western U.S. Temperatures were 3 to 15 degrees above normal in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.