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How Dry Is It In California? - Sierra Daily

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Sierra Daily

Jan 17, 2014

How Dry Is It In California?

Calif-snow-2013-vs-2014This dry. Image at left is what California looked like from space at this time last year, at right this year. So dry that this morning California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency... 

...as the state struggled with the lowest-levels of rainfall in its 153-year history, reservoirs were at low levels and firefighters remained on high alert.

"We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation," Brown said.

The governor asked Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. 

Shasta_oli_2014004It's so dry that Mt. Shasta, the source of the Upper Sacramento River and usually covered in 100 inches of snow at this time of year (it got 189 inches in a single storm in 1959, a world record), now looks like this. Slopes at the mountain's ski area are mostly closed, with only one or two inches of snow on the ground. And Shasta Lake, the huge reservoir that holds much of its runoff for delivery to the fields of the Central Valley, is at a mere 37% capacity. Many towns are already seeing their drinking water supplies run perilously low; Willits, for example, has less than a 100 day supply. And there is already a serious wildfire in Southern California's San Gabriel mountains. 

As ever, California's scary drought cannot be conclusively linked to climate change--although climate models do predict that that is what we can expect under global warming. If not climate change, it's something that looks exactly like it. 

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

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