Northern California’s wet and windy winter has pushed fears of resurgent drought to the back of minds; however, until recently, a majority of the state was still classified in the grips of what the U.S. Drought Monitor dubbed a “moderate drought.”
That changed with a new drought map released Thursday, which revealed that the affected area around the state has declined by more than two-thirds in only one week.
The previous map showed more than 77 percent of California in the midst of at least “moderate drought.” The new map cuts that area down to approximately 23 percent.
Of course, it didn’t rain all that much across the state last week, meaning that the upgrade is not the result of the heavens opening up, but just the Drought Monitor reassessing conditions.
Climatologist Brian Fuchs writes, “Even with a dry week, a reassessment of conditions [...] allowed for quite a few improvements over California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon. In most of California, a full category improvement was done in response to the short-term indicators.”
According to data released by the California Department of Water Resources, six of the state’s major reservoirs are at 100 percent or more of their seasonal average, with four more at least 90 percent of the way there.
Under the new assessment, most of the state (more than 76 percent) still qualifies as “abnormally dry,” but the area experiencing more or less normal conditions now includes San Francisco and most of the Bay Area.
Another wet and rainy weekend is on the way to add more of the same. According to the NWS forecast for San Francisco, there’s a 70 percent chance of rain on Friday and then a 90 percent chance of “heavy rain” Friday night, “between a half and three quarters of an inch possible” along with 36 mile per hour winds.
A second storm is likely to follow after Friday’s blows over, with a 60 percent chance of more rain on Saturday (up to a quarter inch) and then 50 percent on Sunday.
The Weather Channel forecast for the city predicts an even more aggressive storm, projecting 90 percent odds of rain on Sunday and carrying over into 60 percent for Sunday.
Those planning to travel through the north state during the weekend might want to reconsider, as NWS has issued a Winter Storm Watch from February 1 through February 4 for areas above 5,000 feet.
“Mountain travel is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED after Friday afternoon,” the federal meteorological service said via Twitter. Caps in original.
- California Drought Map
- US Drought Summary
- Reservoir Report [DWR]
- San Francisco Forecast [NWS]
- SF Forecast [Weather.com]
- Winter Storm Watch [NWS]