California Drought by the Numbers – ZERO

Published on June 12th, 2015

A community of houseboats floats on the shallow water of Shasta Lake in California.U.S. Geological Survey

Talal Al-Khabib
June 11, 2015
Discovery News

Numbers don't lie, and none of the figures coming out of California's drought have anything good to say.

Let's start with the number zero. Late last month, the state hit an inauspicious milestone: the snowpack in the Sierra mountains, an important source of water during the summer months, stands at 0 percent of normal. The snowpack usually provides water during the summer months as it melts, but now California will have to rely on its increasingly strained aquifers.

But this isn't the only discouraging metric coming out of the now four-year-long megadrought. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Texas Deluge Gives Hope For End To California Drought

If you're a Texan, the torrential rainfall that's inundating the state is pretty scary.

Just ask all the fans were stuck for hours in Houston's Toyota Center after the conclusion of Monday night's playoff game between NBA's Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. Arena officials asked them not to leave because the violent downpour and flooding made local streets too dangerous.

In Houston, firefighters had to stage more than 500 rescues of people trapped by flooding, and two people drowned, according to TV station KHOU.

More than 10 inches of rain fell in some parts of the state on Monday night, according to the Weather Channel website. Coming on top of what has been a wet spring in the Lone Star State, the precipitation is causing waterways and reservoirs to overflow, forcing governments to take emergency action.

In Corpus Christi, 200 miles to the southwest of Houston, city officials actually are releasing millions of gallons of water per minute from Lake Corpus Christi into the Nueces River, in order to avoid damaging the Wesley Seale Dam. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of emergency in many counties.

Amazingly, though, some Californians are watching the Texas deluge with envy, or perhaps hope. It’s not that they relish being stranded in their cars or to having to flee flooded homes, as some Texans have. But they’re desperate for heavy rainfall to help restore their reservoirs and end a prolonged drought that have forced California officials to demand that urban areas cut water consumption by 25 percent.

California Drought Looks Like Worst in 1,000 years

And conditions in Texas might presage a break for California.

The Texas rains are being driven by a developing El Niño in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, as NASA climatologist Bill Patzert explained to the Los Angeles Times. If a robust El Niño develops, it could bring heavy rain to southern and central California in the winter,

Californians may be taking some comfort in Texas’ recent emergence from a dry spell that, at its peak in 2011, had 97 percent of the state enduring drought conditions. Before the latest round of storms started, it was down to 15 percent, and some reservoirs are up to nearly 80 percent of capacity.

But Patzert warned that El Niño is hardly a panacea. It won’t bring rain to the northern portion of California, which is just as parched as the southern and central regions. And residents in those places might well find themselves imperiled by flooding, just as Texans now are.

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