The California Drought, Which Was to Last Centuries, May Be Over

Print Email

Recent storms that have brought heavy rain to Northern California are ending a years-long drought throughout most of the region. More rain storms are expected in the area, which will bring huge floods, but enough water to help land that has been so dry it has affected the economy, particularly for the agriculture sector. Not terribly long ago, scientists forecast the drought could last for decades, or even centuries.

The gold standard of drought measurement is the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is run jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Two years ago, almost all of California suffered from some level of drought, according to the service. Over half the state suffered from the worst level, called “exceptional drought.” The area of California that measures at that level is now only a little over 2%. From San Francisco north, there is no drought at all.

In late 2014, scientists said the California drought was the worst in over 1,200 years and could persist for two centuries. These forecasts where based on everything from ocean temperatures in the Pacific to measures of centuries of water levels made by digging deep into the ground.

One of the first alarms about the duration of the California drought was from National Geographic:

California is experiencing its worst drought since record-keeping began in the mid 19th century, and scientists say this may be just the beginning. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley, thinks that California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more.

Only two and a half years later, the drought may be over. Rain has poured down so much recently that floods have become the threat, replacing perpetually dry ground. The 200-year drought is over.