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A Wet California for Now

Drought, deluge, drought?

In previous blog posts I've shared how different sections of the United States and the world will have climate impacts that differ. Too much heat and drought in one area and too much moisture in another. What if we have alternating cycles of heat/drought and rain events, aka, California?

I have quoted from a New York Times article below. And, I think in a separate article/story I heard that the berry crop from California is right now still under water, so those raspberries and blackberries that we like to have year-round, will cost a lot more because that crop is going to be severely limited in 2023.

Feast or famine may be the routine we see not only in berries but also in water. While reservoirs are full again in California, it takes many years of sustained rainfall to recharge underground aquifers. Most rain that falls in prodigious quantities ends up being runoff and does not seep back into the ground.

Simplistic thinking will lead many people to believe that the drought conditions in California are over. Likely not the case. I share the information below for your edification. And, I'll also remind you that a period of wet weather also provides the moisture to re-fuel the wildland fire danger with new growth. Rain can be a double edged sword, flooding and fires, in that order.

Extract from NYT Article: A Very Wet Winter Has Eased California’s Drought, but Water Woes Remain

"The recent onslaught of precipitation has flooded highways, broken levees and knocked out power for tens of thousands of utility customers, inflicting widespread destruction on Californians still weary from the
back-to-back atmospheric river storms that pummeled the state in January.

The deluges have also had another effect: replenishing reservoirs and building up snowpack, which has improved drought conditions across much of the state. This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor noted “broad reductions in drought coverage and intensity” across California and neighboring areas.

But long-term concerns remain in a state where years of aridity, rising temperatures and unsustainable water use have left their mark, experts say.

“The water issues haven’t gone away,” said Jay Lund, vice director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, “they’re just taking more of a backseat.”

Cycles of deluge and drought are common in California, in both the long and short term. The state typically gets the bulk of its precipitation during the late fall and winter, much of it from storms fueled by
atmospheric rivers, and can go long periods in the spring and summer
without any rain.

California has built up its water infrastructure — reservoirs, wells and irrigation systems — in part to account for the imbalanced timing in precipitation. But the strategy of capturing water during wet periods and reserving it for dry periods gets more difficult to implement in a warming climate, Dr. Lund said, because weather extremes are becoming greater.

The recent storms have quickly refilled many of California’s reservoirs. A number of them have returned to or even surpassed average levels for this time of year, compared with previous years where reservoir levels remained below the historical average. (Reservoirs are usually maintained below their full capacity, sometimes with controlled releases to mitigate flood risk.)"
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.