California's intense heavy rainstorms have significantly improved drought conditions, nearly eliminating extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, the storms have brought punishing destruction, too, as seen at Seacliff State Beach park in Monterey Bay earlier this week. Photo courtesy of CA State Parks/Twitter
Jan. 12 (UPI) -- California's extreme drought has nearly been eliminated after the recent waves of record-setting rainfall sweeping the state.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme drought is down from 27.1% of the state last week to 0.32% Thursday. Severe drought is also down -- from 71% of California to 46%.
California reservoirs are also at higher levels after these rains.
According to ABC News, soil moisture is vastly improved in California as well, measuring 100% this week compared to 2% on Nov. 1. While that's welcome news, the extreme moisture happened west of the Sierra Mountains, which means the rain has not helped Lake Mead and Lake Powell - the two big reservoirs in the Colorado River basin that are at critically low levels from massive drought. Lake Mead is at just 28% capacity.
While the heavy storms have improved drought conditions, it's not enough to eliminate drought entirely.
"When it comes this quickly, we can't capture it. So a lot of it doesn't percolate into the water table," said Desert Research Institute associate research scientist in climatology David Simeral. "And it also depends on where the precipitation is falling. Whether they're in areas where there are reservoirs to store that water. But the long-term situation, in spite of all of the flooding that you're seeing, there are still long-term problems in terms of reservoir storage that have not been resolved yet. And the groundwater situation ... is a much longer timescale in terms of looking at recovery of the groundwater."
According to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, in recent weeks there's more improvement than deterioration in U.S. drought conditions.
But a megadrought has persisted in the southwestern U.S. for more than two decades, the driest event in the region in at least 1,200 years, according to research led by the University of California-Los Angeles.