An End to California's 5-Year Drought? It's on Mother Nature

If storms keep raining precipitation down, Cali could be sitting pretty
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2017 10:43 AM CST
Storms May Finally End California's 5-Year Drought
Could 2017 bring the end of the drought for California?   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Sorry, Lena Horne, but stormy weather may be just what California's been looking for. The Golden State has been getting bombarded with precipitation—rain, snow, hail, sleet—making even Los Angeles feel "more like London than Southern California," the Los Angeles Times notes. But for a parched state that's been plagued by a drought lasting more than five years, this wet weather is not only good for 2017—it could bring an official end to the drought altogether. The Weather Network reports a "great improvement," particularly in California's northern third, and the first third of January has been "exceptional" for rainfall and snow accumulation. About 42% of California is now drought free, the AP reports (a more specific breakdown can be found at the US Drought Monitor). The prospect of an end to the drought is "kind of a nice thing to think about," a state climatologist tells the Times.

But Mother Nature still has a lot of work to do. The unpredictable weather patterns that often come with La Niña conditions, expected to last throughout the winter, mean there's no guarantee the storms will keep raining their soggy gifts down. And semantics could complicate a declaration of "this is the end," as there's no set parameter to gauge if a drought has indeed come to a close (it would officially be deemed over if Gov. Jerry Brown pulls or changes a January 2014 emergency drought order he issued, per the Mercury News). Still, there's reason to be hopeful: Last week alone, the storms dumped more than 350 billion gallons of water into the state's thirsty reservoirs, boosting water levels to long-forgotten marks. "It's early. We'll see where we are in March or April," a Natural Resources Agency rep says. (The drought has affected the state's trees.)

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