Last year was California’s driest year on record, and the situation isn’t improving.
The entire southwest and Texas is getting hit particularly hard right now. High pressure off the west coast continues to prevent any rain from entering the southwest United States, unlike the Pacific Northwest and northern California where recent significant rainfall has helped ease drought conditions.
California’s hit hardest
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a little more than 22 percent of California is in an exceptional drought. That area of the worst drought lies from San Jose to Santa Barbara and expands east into the Sierra mountains.
This is also a large agricultural area that heavily relies on irrigation. Most of the world’s almonds are grown here. They also lead the nation in artichokes, grapes, kiwi, olives, peaches and many more fruits, nuts and vegetables. Livestock farmers are also seeing hardship, having to thin their herd to cut back on water costs.
Texas is feeling it too
Two spots in Texas are also feeling the effects of an exceptional drought. North Central Texas near Wichita Falls and Amarillo in the panhandle also have the honor of being in that exceptional drought category.
Drought conditions have been persistent in both of these areas for multiple years now. Soil moisture content is down, and so are reservoirs theses areas rely on for irrigation. It’s going to take an unusually wet year to end these drought conditions.
A lot of rain to ease the pain
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it would take anywhere between 6 inches and nearly 4 feet of rain in parts of southwest California over the next six months to end the drought. The Texas panhandle isn’t much better, requiring one to four feet of rain in the same time period to end drought conditions.
Long-term outlooks don’t look promising either. The latest outlook that takes us through the end of March has near normal precipitation for the worst drought-stricken areas.
This isn’t saying much for California, since they’re coming out of the rainy season. It may hold some hope for parts of Texas, though, since the spring and summer seasons are typically their wettest.
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