2013 was much more than record-setting drought

Posted by Mark Grossi on January 3, 2014 

JRW RAIN

Dry ground from lack of rain is evident as dust billows from the clean-up of an almond grove west of Fresno, Monday afternoon.

JOHN WALKER — THE FRESNO BEE Buy Photo

Meteorologists say 2013 was more than a record-setting drought year. They’re calling it historic — a year that nobody in the weather business forgets.

By most accounts, it was much, much worse than meteorologists had ever seen, including desperately dry 1976.

Fresno-area meteorologist Steve Johnson, who has been tracking weather in California for decades, said on a drought scale of 1 to 10, last year was a 14.

“After I looked at the numbers around the state, I was in a state of shock on New Year’s Eve,” he said.

That’s because records were not merely broken. They were obliterated.

Think aboout it. Weather records usually are broken by only small percentage points, but not this time.

Many old records fell by more than 40%. In the case of downtown Oakland, it was 58% — the 1976 record being 10.02 inches and the 2013 total being 4.24 inches.

Gilroy’s new record is a whopping 77% lower than its previous record low. That looks like a typo to many experts.

There were dozens of cities throughout the state that set records, as there were in the drought year of 1976, according to Johnson and other meteorologists.

Johnson added that his analysis of past weather records led him to forecast a 77% chance of a dry 2014 in California.

Federal forecasters seem to agree. The drought outlook from NOAA shows the Western drought to persist or intensify over the next three months.

Reservoirs already are low, according to the Department of Water Resources. Shasta Reservoir in Northern California is down to 37%. Farther south in the foothills along the San Joaquin valley, Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River is down to 17%.

State hydgrologists surveyed the snowpack last Friday and determined it held only 20% of the water usually found at this time of year. It all points to a third consecutive year of drought, which would hit Valley farmers hard.

Maybe it’s time to talk seriously about conserving water in cities this summer.

 

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