How many inches? What about drought?
A colossal amount of rain and snow has fallen on California in the past few months from a dozen atmospheric flows: more than 78 trillion gallons of water, and counting.
It’s not the wettest year the Golden State has ever seen, but it is a colossal amount of water in a state that has been plagued by drought for several years. The number of gallons comes from National Weather Service data compiled by weather forecaster Ryan Maue.
The 78 trillion gallon figure is based on the statewide average of 27.6 inches of rainwater and “snowwater equivalent” that fell on the state from Oct. 1 — the start of California’s water year — through the week of March 20.
“Snow-to-water equivalent” is the depth of water that would cover the ground if the snowpack were in a liquid state,” according to the Weather Service.
GRAPHIC:See how drenched California is – and why it would take several years like this to eradicate the drought
How much water is in 78 trillion gallons?
The rainfall did not fall evenly across the state, but if it did, it would have covered the state of California with about 30 inches of water. That’s enough for:
- Complete the Rose Bowl more than 900,000 times.
- Fill more than 110 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
- Fill Lake Tahoe – twice.
In case you need a refresher, here’s what the Rose Bowl Stadium looks like in Pasadena, California:
How is climate change affecting you?: Subscribe to Climate Point’s weekly newsletter
CONTINUE READING: Latest climate change news from the US TODAY
Is this the wettest winter California has ever had?
At 27.6 inches so far, California still has a long way to go to break the record for wettest year on record: “The highest water year was 1982-1983, which totaled 42.81 inches,” said the Californian Climatologist Michael Anderson.
How does the California winter compare to the average?
Maue said the nationwide long-term average from Oct. 1 through the end of March is expected to be 52 trillion gallons of water (18.6 inches nationwide). So this year, more than 25 trillion gallons have fallen above average — or about 150% of average.
How does it compare to the last dry years?
California’s extremely wet winter of 2022-23 is in stark contrast to how dry the state has been in recent years. Last water year, for example, ended with statewide rainfall at 76% of the average, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
This means that there was already twice as much precipitation this year as in the entire water year 2021/22.
Additionally, 2020-22 was California’s “driest three-year period on record, breaking the old record set by the previous 2013-2015 drought,” according to a WaterWorld magazine press release.
How Much Snow Has Fallen in the California Mountains?
Several ski resorts in California and the western United States have seen as much as 58 feet of snow this winter, according to Weather.com. That’s about 700 inches of snow.
How does 58 feet stack up? Well, it’s taller than the average height of three male giraffes stacked head-to-toe on top of each other, Weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce said.
(Remember that the 58-foot total is the accumulated snowfall for the entire winter, not snow depth. Due to melting, evaporation, and compaction, actual snow depth was never that high.)
On Wednesday, Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in the eastern Sierra announced it had set an all-time record 695 inches (nearly 58 feet) of snow for the season at the resort’s main lodge.
UNTIL NOW:30 meters of snow? So much has fallen in some places in California as snow blankets vast tracts of land.
More than 57 feet of snow has fallen at the Central Sierra Snow Lab, a field research station at the University of California, Berkeley, at Donner Pass in the mountains of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Normal snowfall for the entire season is about 30 feet there.
The height of 57 feet has already broken a nearly 40-year record set in 1983.
Heavy snowfall this week set another record: On Tuesday, the water content of snowpack in the central Sierra was 234% of the April 1 average, a benchmark for its all-time high, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources.
Another fun fact from this winter: California transportation officials said earlier this month that they removed enough snow from the state’s roads in February to fill the Rose Bowl 100 times.
What is the US snowfall record?
As unbelievable as these snowfall totals are, it’s still a long way from the country’s snowiest winter ever at 95 feet, which occurred in the winter of 1997-98 at Washington State’s Mount Baker ski resort, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.
Will all this rain and snow end the drought in California?
Recent rain and snow in California helped pull nearly two-thirds of the state out of the drought.
In fact, according to the US Drought Monitor, only 36% of the state of California is in a drought as of March 23rd, compared to 100% on January 1st.
“Clearly, the amount of water that has fallen this year has mitigated the drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It hasn’t completely ended the drought, but we’re in a very different place than we were a year ago.”
Though the state’s drought situation has improved greatly, much of the West still faces a long-term water crisis as experts warn that demand for water will continue to exceed supply.
DEFINITIONS: Is climate change the same as global warming? definitions explained.
CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSES: Why scientists say humans are to blame.
Even Los Angeles was soaked this winter
When you think of Los Angeles, rain isn’t the first type of weather that comes to mind. However, this winter season in the City of Angels has been exceptionally wet. About 21.28 inches of rain has been recorded in downtown LA so far this season, the National Weather Service said. That’s more than double the average of nearly 9 inches.
Both the months of January and February were particularly wet. January fell 8.95 inches, more than double the monthly average of 3.29 inches, the weather service said. In February, the rainfall in downtown LA was 5.95 inches, well above the average of 3.64 inches.
A deadly, costly winter in California
So far, the storms have killed more than 20 people in California and likely caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, according to AccuWeather.
Contribution: The Associated Press