WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A rainier than normal October has erased drought conditions in the northern corner of California, and the state overall is in better shape than it has been in years, though forecasters warn a month of improvement won't correct five years of extreme drought.
Four counties in the northeast corner of California around Sacramento -- 12 percent of the state -- have no drought conditions and the drought has eased overall, but most of the state remains in severe drought or worse, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
At this time last year, more than 97 percent of California was mired in a moderate drought or worse. This year, 75 percent of the state is experiencing at least a moderate drought, the best since 2013 when 64 percent of the state was in moderate drought or worse.
The central and southern parts of California are in the worst shape, which is where the 43 percent of the state is in at least extreme drought conditions and all of the 21 percent with exceptional drought conditions are located.
State climatologist Mike Anderson said the rain year, which started Oct. 1, has been good so far. Being just 31 days into the season, he cautioned against making a judgement until at least December, when the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a good measure of the state's water supply, is measured for the first time this year.
"We really need to wait until we get into the main part of our wet season," Anderson said.
Most of California's rain falls between December and February. The fourth wettest October ever in Sacramento may not mean much, experts say, considering the rest of the state was still widely dry.
As the state enters its sixth year of drought, climatologist Bill Patzert, who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the improvement seen this October may not mean much if it doesn't continue because it will take time for the water situation to significantly improve.
"We're still on our knees," Patzert said. "To get out of a serious drought... it will take many years of above normal [precipitation]."