Nearly 100 years ago, Dust Bowl refugees from the middle of the country sought new lives and livelihoods in the Golden State. Now California is fixing to become its own damn dust bowl. The last two months in the northern Sierra Nevada, normally the wettest time of the year, have shattered an all-time weather record as the driest January and February in recorded history.
The northern Sierra is crucial to statewide water supplies because it is where snowmelt accumulates to fill Shasta and Oroville reservoirs. These are the largest reservoirs in California and the primary storage points for state and federal water supply systems.
If February concludes without additional storms — and none are expected — the northern Sierra will have seen 2.2 inches of precipitation in January and February, the least since record-keeping began in the region in 1921.
That is well below the historical average of 17.1 inches.
Other spots throughout the state have also seen record dry conditions after November and December brought an epic atmospheric river to the West Coast, drenching the North Sierra in twice the average precipitation.
Another such Pineapple Express is unlikely in the months to come, though, and that reality has left residents dry and a bit itchy. Farmers are scaling back their plans to account for the lack of water. One water authority director laments that “there will be a lot of land fallowed” even though the state was “almost in flood-control conditions back in December.”
From feast to famine in just two months — quick work, California!