For the first time in three years, California’s devastating four-year-old drought showed signs of easing its grip a wee bit on the nation’s most populous state.
Less than 90 percent of California is in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought conditions. This is welcome news for the state’s 38 million residents who are dealing with widespread water restrictions, which may soon be amended.
The Golden State can thank El Niño for the dip in drought. El Niño is a natural warming of the Pacific Ocean that typically brings wetter conditions to the West Coast. Currently, 89.68 percent of the state is in a drought, down from a high of 100 percent in October 2014. Only 21 percent is in exceptional drought, which is the worst level. This is down from a high of 58 percent from August to October of 2014.
El Niño also helped increase the water levels in all three of northern California’s major reservoirs (Shasta Reservoir, Lake Oroville and Folsom Lake) to above average — the first time that’s happened in three years as well, says the state’s Department of Water Resources.
Unfortunately, even though the latest El Niño was the strongest on record, it has recently waned. The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a chance of La Niña during the second half of this year, which could make drought conditions worse since it tends to produce below-average precipitation on the West Coast.