Downright dismal images of the Western drought, a record-setter in California


U.S. Drought Monitor, July 31, 2014.

On Thursday, 58 percent of California was declared under exceptional drought, the most severe classification and a shocking 22 percent increase from the previous week. It’s the biggest chunk of California to reach such a level since the U.S. Drought Monitor began issuing weekly drought reports in the late 1990s.

The  impacts of the drought are profound, with economic losses expected to reach $2.2 billion for California’s agricultural industry.

This historic drought, of course, extends well beyond California through parts of the Colorado River Basin and into the western Plains.

These images help tell the very bleak story…

1. In California, the drought has gotten worse and worse and worse

2. Heat is intensifying the drought. California is having its warmest year on record, by far…

3. The drought is forecast to get worse still


(NOAA)

4. Parts of California need more than a foot of rain to end the drought


(NOAA)

5. California is turning brown and you can see it from space. Look at the difference between June 2011 and June 2014 in the animation of NASA images below. Note the dwindling snowpack, as well. Sierra Nevada snowpack was just 18 percent of normal this spring.


Pair of images above from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. (NASA)

6. California’s ground is literally sinking in spots (due to groundwater pumping to make up for lack of rain)

7. The toll on California agriculture is devastating. Photo from Richvale, California, in north central California:


In this May 1, 2014 photo, fourth-generation rice farmer Josh Sheppard walks across the dried-up ditch at his rice farm in Richvale, Calif. California’s 19th-century water laws give about 4,000 companies, farms and others unmonitored water while the state is mired in a three-year drought that has forced water cutbacks to cities and the nation’s agricultural center. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

9. Water levels are low and lowering in Southern California.


A lowering water level can be seen at Morris Dam, which holds back the San Gabriel River in the San Gabriel Mountains, north of Azusa and east of Los Angeles on July 29, 2014 in California, where emergency water-conservation measures are being implemented as the state struggles through its third year of drought amid lowering water supplies in its reservoirs, parched dry land on farms across the state and a heightened concern for wildfire dangers. New restrictions carrying a $500 penalty come into effect in California on August 1st regarding outdoor water use. (J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

10.  A symbolic measuring stick for water in the West, Lake Mead (in Nevada), is drying up. Only 39 percent full, it recently reached its lowest level since 1937.  NASA satellite imagery shows change in water level from June 2013 to July 2014 (animation below):


The images shown were acquired on June 16, 2013 and July 21, 2014 by the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite. More information. (NASA)

11. Lake Mead shows bathtub ring due to depleted water.


Via NASA: “Surface-water depletion in the Colorado River Basin has left this “bathtub ring” of mineral deposits on Lake Mead.” (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

12. A marina on Lake Mead has been moved due to low water levels


Animation of Lake Mead Marina in 2007 and 2014, when it was moved (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jack Williams · August 1, 2014

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