Since the last week of December, nearly two feet of rain has fallen in San Francisco, causing all sorts of problems… but vastly improving our region’s drought conditions.
The amount of precipitation that’s fallen in the San Francisco Bay Area since late December has been nothing short of astonishing. On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service finally laid to rest weeks of lukewarm speculation as to how much rain had, in fact, flooded our streets and muddied our hillsides.
Updated numbers from the weather agency posted on Twitter confirmed atmospheric rivers that poured over California between December 26th and January 10th.
One positive outcome of the recent precipitation in the West is its impact on the ongoing drought. The updated US Drought Monitor shows noticeable improvement of drought conditions in California. Despite the record rainfall, much of the state is still enduring drought conditions. pic.twitter.com/BmCQh8w9vL
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) January 12, 2023
“In this time, California averaged 8.61 inches of precipitation, and the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan statistical area averaged 13.34 inches,” NWS forecasters reported. To put the latter future into perspective: That’s nearly three times the rainfall San Francisco usually records through the entire month of January, which is one of the wettest months in SF’s rainfall season.
This is splendid, wondrous news. But the question looms: Is California — and, by proxy, the Bay Area — still in a drought? Yes, unfortunately.
According to the most recent data sets superimposed on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map for California, the entire state is still experiencing drought conditions. However, those states of depletion continue to improve; the entire Bay Area is experiencing “moderate” levels of drought, while there continue to be no examples of “exceptional” drought conditions in the state; with more rain on the way this weekend and into early next week, the map is expected to be updated with favorable conditions that continue moving the state out of the worst drought in 1,200-plus years.
As of publishing, all seven of Marin County’s water reservoirs are at capacity following a series of recent atmospheric rivers — and there’s more heavy rainfall on the horizon. The county’s water district predicts that reservoir storage levels will continue to outpace their respective annual averages for the next few weeks, which could lead to elevated risks of flooding. California’s second-largest water reservoir, Lake Orville, is currently at 47% of capacity; a month ago exactly, the massive lake was at just 28% of capacity. The Sierras are currently “snow packed” with an amount of frozen precipitation that hasn’t descended on the mountains in decades.
It’s unclear how this weekend’s spat of wet weather will impact future readings. But what is certain is that for the first time in three years, the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California, and the entire state of California are seeing massive improvements in drought conditions.
Let’s hope this atmospheric trend continues into 2023… sans, well… the flash flooding, hail and lighting, and sinkholes that swallow entire highway lanes.
Feature image: Courtesy of SF Water Power Sewer