Calif. drought update: Conditions worsen

SACRAMENTO - The new numbers are in for the ongoing California drought and the news is not good. While there have been storms and wet, cooler patterns, the rain and snow is simply not there to turn things around.

The most severe designation for drought is called "exceptional" and you could consider this a 5/5 ranking. In other words, the lack of moisture will have major impacts for all walks of life in areas experiencing exceptional drought. Water rationing, crop loss, or crops not planted, and livestock loss are all very likely with this level of drought.

There was a two percent increase in exceptional drought area -- now up to one quarter of the state. We also saw the extreme drought area increase by 8 percent. If you are wondering why the numbers don't seem to add up, there is a case of oversampling because some areas would be considered in extreme AND exceptional at the same time. The bottom line: the drought is intensifying.

There will be welcome rain and snow over the next 36 hours but not enough to turn things around. The only ray of hope is the increasing chances that we will see an El Nino pattern set up this winter. In that case, historically we get more rain than average for California and that could be the pattern shift we need. There is one problem with this scenario and that is we should be in the drought at least until the end of the year, if not well into next before we could get the numbers to turn around.

One other problem with the drought is the location of the exceptional areas. The dark red zone covers some of the most rich, and fertile agriculture land on Earth, and not only will there be economic impact but lifestyle impact as well. We may see some high quality, locally sourced fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meat products and produce become much more expensive in the near term. Dairy products could also see price spikes as the price of hay to feed diary cattle will most certainly rise. Even as the local lakes and rivers rise with the spring melt, remember that the long-term drought will require a long-term weather pattern change to overcome the current situation.

News10 meteorologist Rob Carlmark


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