California storm cycle comes to an end after causing extensive damage | Climate and Environment

Ryan Orosco holds his son outside his home in Brentwood, California.
Ryan Orosco holds his son outside his home in Brentwood, California.JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO (AP)

The rain seems to give a truce to California. The authorities have asked the inhabitants of the State for patience. After another rainy weekend, a new storm is forecast to bring fresh rainfall and snowfall to the territory, which for the first time in years has seen its newscasts filled with scenes of flooding, the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, landslides and rescues. Meteorologists have followed the path of eight storms since December. On Sunday afternoon the ninth entered the coast, which is believed to be the last. This, moderate, will continue its course to the east throughout Monday, adding a few more millimeters to the abundant volume fallen since December 27. The big question everyone is asking is how much have these phenomena impacted the chronic drought that California has been experiencing for the past four years.

With the end in sight, the State authorities will dedicate this Monday to assessing the damage that the rains have left. At least 20 people have died in recent weeks in incidents related to heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. More than 40 counties maintained the emergency declaration on Monday. Among these was Los Angeles, the most populous urban nucleus. The White House declared a state of disaster in the region on Saturday, which allows state authorities to obtain special resources to help affected individuals in Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties, in the center and north of the state.

The monitoring center of the University of California Berkeley has reported this Monday that since last Friday they recorded 126 centimeters of snow. This has prompted an alert to be issued for a possible avalanche in the central Sierra of California, which could affect the surroundings of the popular tourist destination of Lake Tahoe.

The Meteorological Service has indicated that this Tuesday the dry period will begin in the entity. The first to notice it will be the inhabitants of southern California. The change will come to the center and north of the state on Thursday, as light rains are still forecast for the next two days.

The thread of storms caused by a series of phenomena called atmospheric rivers has also left good news. California’s dam system, home to 40 million people, is showing levels not seen in years. This storage network, which is nourished in the rainy season that runs from November to March, represents 60% of the supply that the State has.

These maps show a reduction in the severity of the drought in the State of California: on the left with data from January 12 and on the right with data from October 2022.
These maps show a reduction in the severity of the drought in the State of California: on the left with data from January 12 and on the right with data from October 2022.US Drought Monitor

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In total, the network is made up of 15 reserves. The rains of the last three weeks have meant that nine of them are already above the average registered in recent years. Four others are nearing average, a mark they could reach once the snow melts on the mountain ranges. The most important of all these reserves is that of Lake Shasta, located to the north. Its level has gone from being 280 meters above sea level last December, to almost 300 meters on January 15. Currently, it is at 50% of its capacity.

Lake Oroville was during 2022 one of the main faces to illustrate the ravages that extreme drought has left in California. The low levels of the lake body during the summer exposed mountains that, in normal situations, were hidden by the water level. Oroville was then just over 40% full. This lake has also benefited from recent torrential rainfall. It has risen about 12 meters in height above sea level, placing its level up close to 60% of its capacity. It is 87 meters above the levels it registered at the start of 2021. It is the reserve that has grown the most in recent weeks.

Experts have asked for a little more time to assess whether the string of storms has ended the drought that has reigned in California for more than three years. The system that monitors the drought, administered by the federal Department of Agriculture, shows a drastic change compared to the last two weeks. The map indicates that 95% of the State now registers a moderate drought. Extreme drought is found today only in 0.32% of the territory. Three months ago, this intensity prevailed at 41%. The most severe level, that of exceptional drought, was present in 16% of California. This week is 0%.

The key for California to decree the end of the three-year period marked by the drought will be in the next two months. February and March should bring rain. Better if they are more moderate. There is already a history of success. On April 7, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown declared an end to California’s five-year drought, following a winter of record rainfall and a state-imposed water conservation effort. These two requirements have been repeated six years later. It remains to be seen if the good news arrives in April.

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