Two years after an extremely dry winter led to restrictions on water use, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas is among the deepest on record, says the Los Angeles Times. An end-of-winter measurement by state snow survey chief Frank Gehrke found 94 inches of snow near the town of Phillips.
California is so big "[i]t has different droughts in different places," Jay Lund, an engineering professor at UC-Davis, told the Los Angeles Times. Rainfall in the northern Sierra Nevada, a water source for much of the state, is 180 percent of average so far in the wet season, but Southern California, which gets half of its water from local sources, is historically dry.
Snowmelt from the northern Sierra Nevada provides water for a large part of California during the warm months. An analysis by UCLA says that if greenhouse-gas emissions are not curbed, the snowpack that provides the water could be half its current size by the end of the century, reports public radio KPCC-FM in Pasadena.
A wetter fall has convinced California regulators to ease up on water restrictions for farmers and ranchers in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta and its watersheds, says Reuters. A foot of rain fell on the northern half of the state in October, making it the second wettest on record in the northern Sierra Nevadas. The south remained dry.
Some 26 million trees in the southern Sierra Nevada region of California have died since last October due to drought, insect damage and hotter-than-normal weather, according to an aerial survey by the Forest Service, bringing the state total to 66 million dead trees. "Tree die-offs of this magnitude are unprecedented and increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Precipitation in late December and early January in California "did not provide enough moisture to dent long-term drought," says the weekly Drought Monitor.