California has been hit by a series of powerful storms that began late last month. The storms have brought an extreme amount of rain to the state. More than 17 people have died from the storms and more than half of California’s 58 counties have been declared disaster areas, the governor said. Even more storms are expected in the coming days.
California has also experienced a multi-year period drought. The extremely dry period has severely cut off the water supply and forced officials to urge residents to save water.
Experts say the series of storms will help dry conditions, but exactly how much is not yet clear.
However, rain and snow will not be enough to fix some of California’s long-term water problems that climate change is making worse.
Here’s a look at how the storms will affect California’s long fight against drought:
Where is the rain helping?
California has experienced six so-called atmospheric rivers in recent weeks. Atmospheric rivers are narrow areas in the atmosphere with high moisture. Three more are expected, and the storms will continue for at least another week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.
The rain has been especially heavy in central California, including the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley. Rainfall is 138 percent higher than average for this time of year, officials said. The storms have also brought snow to the Sierra Nevada mountains along California’s eastern border.
most of the state reservoirs remain below average for this time of year. But some have started to fill up, especially those near the hardest-hit area of Sacramento and along parts of the Sierra Nevada. The reservoirs are important to supply water to the Central Valley. That is an area of farmland that produces copious amounts of fruits, nuts, and grains. The reservoirs also supply water to millions of people living in coastal cities.
“What we have so far puts us in good shape, probably for at least the next year,” said Alan Haynes. He is a water expert with the California Nevada River Forecast Center.
Snowpack is its own type of shell. The snow stores moisture, which hopefully slowly melts into reservoirs, supplying people with water during the summer and fall. But now that snowpack is often melting too quickly, and reservoirs can’t capture enough.
Where could the storms fail?
It is still early winter and it is not clear what the next few months will bring. Last year, the snowpack across the state around this time also looked hopeful. But a few hot and dry months followed. When the snowpack was supposed to peak in early April, it was just 38 percent of the historical average.
Also, the storms have not dropped as much water in Northern California. A reservoir on Lake Shasta that was at 55 percent of its historical average on December 25 had risen to 67 percent on January 9. It’s better, but still well below historical averages, Haynes said.
Atmospheric rivers are not crashing everywhere. David Gochis is an expert on how water affects climate at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. For some of the larger reservoirs, it may take five or six big rain events to fill them up, he said.
Many California farmers draw water from the ground. Some wells they are drying up It’s something that a series of storms is not going to fix anytime soon, experts said.
And while there have been a few wet years mixed in, California’s drought has lasted for about 20 years. Climate change is creating drier and hotter conditions. Water evaporates faster. California officials predict there will be less water in the state’s future.
Jeannie Jones works for the California Department of Water Resources. She said: “Big picture, this series of storms really is just kind of a drop in the bucket.”
I’m Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English according to a report by The Associated Press.
words in this story
drought — no. a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain
reservoir — no. a generally artificial lake that is used to store a large amount of water for use in people’s homes, businesses, etc.
all right — no. a deep hole made in the ground through which water can be drawn
evaporate — v. change from liquid to gas
a drop in the bucket – idiom an amount that is so small that it does not make a significant difference or has much effect