The U.S. South-West Drought Revisited

We initially looked at the California drought in February of this year in our essay, Another Dry Essay. Since no one is currently writing about it we thought we would review the situation.

The current drought map for California in Figure 1, we see a small improvement in the upper north-west corner of the state.

Figure 1. U.S. Drought Map for California, Dec. 2014

U.S. Drought Monitor forCalifornia
Another source of information on drought conditions in the South-West is the level of Lake Mead that we referenced in Jeopardy Question: This Body of Water Determines the Fate of the Modern Day Anasazi. Looking at water levels published by U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, the level was 1084.5 feet on Dec. 8, 2014. This is about 2.5 feet above when we published the original essay and about 4 feet above record lows set in the summer.
Overall there appears to be some improvement in the drought situation. Further research should determine if this recovery is normal, above normal or below normal. Also, we can revisit the situation on July 1 next year to get a comparison that would have seasonal influences minimized.

Late Link

Hours after we finished this note, our friend JR sent us a link to  the following report: Researchers offer new insights into predicting future droughts in California. A brief introduction states (emphasis added):

According to a new NOAA-sponsored study, natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns are the primary drivers behind California’s ongoing drought. A high pressure ridge off the West Coast (typical of historic droughts) prevailed for three winters, blocking important wet season storms, with ocean surface temperature patterns making such a ridge much more likely.

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