Tags: California | drought | map | weather | El Nino

Mapping California's Drought: Rapid Progression in 4 Years

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Thursday, 21 Aug 2014 03:05 PM

California's extreme drought conditions have progressed rapidly since 2011, when maps based on reports from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that just a small part of the northern part of the state was considered "abnormally dry."

According to Thursday's edition of The Los Angeles Times, drought conditions spread statewide when rainfall became more sporadic.

The first maps of the state show just spots of yellow, indicating the abnormally dry conditions. And then, as time moves along into 2012, the map rapidly changes, with most of the state being colored yellow.

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As 2012 progresses, the map, shown in a 10-second slide show here, begins to turn brown, indicating "moderate drought" and then brown spots on the map expand as the conditions morph into orange, for "severe drought."

The severe drought conditions rapidly spread statewide as the drought worsens through 2013, and by the end of last year, the color red is added, meaning "extreme drought."

This year, as the extreme drought seemed to eat up larger areas of the state, a new brownish red is added to signify "exceptional drought," which has spread to include most of the state by this week, when the map was released. It shows that more than 80 percent of the state is in an extreme drought category. Overall, nearly 100 percent of the state is in the third-harshest category, severe drought, the Times reports.

There appears to be little relief in sight, the Times reports, noting that climatologists base their forecasts on the Drought Monitor's 50 weather indicators across the state, which include weather patterns, soil conditions, and water activity.

In July, the state Water Resources Control Board enacted strict fines for people who waste water, and cities have started fining people or making them attend classes instead of paying fees.

But even tougher teeth for laws won't help the state; for that, California needs rain.

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However, a hoped-for wet El Nino weather pattern isn't expected to materialize, the Times reports, as chances for that have dropped to about 65 percent.

The pattern, if it happens, is expected to start in October and peak during the late fall and early winter months, said the Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, which had said before there would be an 80 percent chance of an El Nino pattern.

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