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Regional Drought Update Date
August 19, 2022
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Drought Status Update

California-Nevada Drought Status Update


DEWS Regions:
States:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.

Southern California-Nevada Benefits from the Monsoon, but Severe Drought (D2) or Worse Continues.

Register here for the September 26 California-Nevada Drought & Climate Outlook Webinar.

 

Key Points

  • Monsoonal rains and moisture have improved drought conditions and reduced fire risk in areas of California and Nevada. Yet more than 98% of the region remains in severe drought (D2) or worse. 
  • Through the end of August, enhanced rainfall across the monsoon regions of the Southwest is strongly favored to continue, while drought persistence is favored for the West ahead of the core wet season. La Nina is expected to continue into the fall and winter.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation released its Colorado River Basin 24-Month Study and announced shortage declarations.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions | August 16, 2022

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts’ assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year. 

California/Nevada conditions as of August 16, 2022:

  • 99.76% of California is experiencing Moderate (D1) to Exceptional (D4) Drought (26.59% in D3, 16.57% in D4)
  • California population in drought: 37,243,383
  • 100% of Nevada is experiencing Moderate (D1) to Exceptional (D4) Drought (52.7% in D3, 0% in D4)
  • Nevada population in drought: 2,700,551
U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
99.9%
of California and Nevada are in drought (D1–D4)
43.2%
of California is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
52.7%
of Nevada is in extreme (D3) drought

Current Conditions

  • Over the past 3 months (primarily the past 4–8 weeks), drought has improved in the monsoon-impacted areas of California and Nevada, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. While Nevada currently has no exceptional drought (D4), more than 98% of the region remains in severe drought (D2) or worse. 
  • California has had its driest and Nevada its second driest start to a calendar year. However, recent rains and moisture have helped the acres burned stay below average for this time of year in California. Monsoonal rains caused severe flooding in Death Valley in the beginning of August. 
  • Dead fuel moistures are high throughout much of the Central Valley but remain near-normal or below-normal in the rest of the region. Several large fires occurred recently in California, including the Oak Fire and McKinney fires. The Klamath River experienced a massive debris flow from McKinney, which impacted fish. 
  • Evaporative demand—the ‘thirst of the atmosphere’—over the past 3 months has been high in the Central Valley. More recently over the past two weeks, it has been low through California and Nevada. 
  • Both evaporative demand and lack of precipitation are drivers of the current drought since it began in October of 2019. Evaporative demand is the primary driver in much of the Central Valley while lack of precipitation has been the primary driver in northern California and the Sierras.
  • Soil moisture remains low across the Central Valley and parts of southwest Nevada, but is near- or above-normal throughout other parts of the region. 
  • On August 11, California Governor Newsom announced California’s latest actions to increase water supply and adapt to more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change, as outlined in California’s Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future. On August 12, he also presented several climate proposals to the State legislature.  
  • On August 16, Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution affirming Metropolitan’s call to action and commitment to regional reliability for all member agencies. 
  • On August 16, the Bureau of Reclamation released its Colorado River Basin 24-Month study and announced urgent action to improve and protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River System. In June 2022, Commissioner Touton testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and called on water users across the Basin to take actions to prevent the reservoirs from falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. 
  • U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited the Central Valley on August 16 with farmers and other federal and state leaders, including Wade Crawfoot, California’s Secretary of Natural Resources Agency, and Karen Ross, California’s Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to discuss drought resiliency and investments. 
  • For more information, check out Living with Drought in Nevada and the California Water Watch.

How is drought affecting your neighborhood? Click to see drought indicators, outlooks, and historical conditions by city, county, and state, as well as sign up for alerts.

View Local Drought Information

U.S. Drought Monitor 8-Week Change Map

Over the past 8 weeks, from June 21 to August 16, 2022, parts of southeastern California and southern Nevada have seen a 1- to 2-category drought improvement. Other areas saw  no change or a 1-category degradation.
U.S. Drought Monitor 8-week change map, showing where drought has improved, degraded, or remained the same from June 21–August 16, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Precipitation Conditions

Southern Nevada and much of California show less than 70% of precipitation for the water year. Eastern Sierra Nevada and parts of Northwest Nevada have received over 100% normal precipitation.

From July 1 to August 17, most of Nevada has seen near or above-normal precipitation, with precipitation surpluses from 0.75 to over 3.75 inches in central Nevada.
Percent of normal precipitation since the start of Water Year 2022, October 1, 2021–August 17, 2022 (top) and anomaly in inches from normal since July 1, 2022 (bottom). Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)

High evaporative demand has been in the Central Valley and along the California coast as well as in Pershing and Churchill Counties over the last three months.

In the past 2 weeks, EDDI has been low throughout much of the region with high values only along the Southern California coast.
Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) for California and Nevada over the last three months (top) and two weeks (bottom). Valid August 12, 2022. EDDI has been shown to be related to wildfire potential. Source: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory.

Relative Contributions of Precipitation Deficit and Surplus Evaporative Demand

From October 2019 to August 2022, the areas of highest precipitation deficits are the Sierra Mountains and much of coastal northern California.  Much of the California Nevada region is showing an evaporative demand surplus between 0-250 mm with greater surplus in northern California.
Left: The precipitation deficit from October 2019 through August 2022. Middle: The surplus evaporative demand (ETo), or the atmospheric conditions leading to the drying of the landscape, from October 2019 to August 2022. Both precipitation deficits and ETo surpluses lead to drought. The relative contributions of these two drivers of drought are shown on the right. Red colors indicate drought dominated by precipitation deficits, and green colors indicate a drought dominated by ETo. White colors show the contribution of both drivers. Source: Mike Dettinger, CNAP.

Drought and Climate Outlook

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

NOAA’s ENSO alert system status is currently a La Niña Advisory. La Niña is expected to continue, with chances for La Niña gradually decreasing from 86% in the coming season to 60% during December 2022–February 2023. For more information, check out the NOAA ENSO blog and how La Niña impacts the Western U.S.

Subseasonal to Seasonal Drought, Temperature, Precipitation, and Fire Outlooks

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-average temperatures for most of the U.S., including California-Nevada, for September through November. For the same time period, precipitation in California-Nevada is forecasted to be below normal to equal chances of below/normal/above. Through the end of August, dynamical models strongly favor a continuation of enhanced rainfall across the monsoon regions of the Southwest, while drought persistence is favored for the West ahead of the core wet season.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, large fires began to emerge in northern California towards the end of July as lightning followed prolonged hot and dry conditions. Northern California is expected to have above-normal significant fire potential through August into September. Above-normal potential is also expected in portions of the central and southern Sierra and foothills, as well as the central California coast through September. By October, only downslope wind favored areas of northern and southern California are forecast to have above-normal potential, with areas in southern California retaining potential in November. Critically flammable vegetation, in both the live and dead fuel types, will occur at times across a broad area of Northern California but will especially impact central and eastern areas during August, with less confidence in the trends for September and October. Near- to above-normal herbaceous fuel loading is found across the landscape and will not be altered until fall or winter storms begin. Other uncertainties regarding fuels that impact significant fire potential include large areas of blow-down with cured leaves and needles due to the intense December storms across portions of the Tahoe, Eldorado, and Six Rivers National Forests, as well as increased tree mortality that has returned in higher numbers compared to recent years due to the extended significant drought.

More details can be found here

Seasonal Drought Outlook: August 18–November 30, 2022

From August 18 to November 30, 2022, drought is likely to persist across California and Nevada, except the southernmost tip of each state, where drought is likely to remain but improve.
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for August 18 to November 30, 2022, showing the likelihood that drought will develop, remain, improve, or be removed. Source: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal (3-Month) Temperature and Precipitation Outlooks

For September to November 2022, odds favor above-normal temperatures across California-Nevada.

From September to November 2022, odds favor below-normal precipitation for most of Nevada (except northwest Nevada) and a small portion of eastern California.
U.S. seasonal temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) outlooks, showing the likelihood of above- or below-normal conditions for September–November 2022. Source: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook: September 2022

The National Interagency Fire Center predicts above-normal significant fire potential in northern California, parts of the central/southern Sierra and foothills, and the central California coast.
Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September 2022 (issued August 1, 2022). Above-normal significant wildland fire potential (red) indicates a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildland fires will occur.  Source: National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services.

Drought Early Warning Resources

California

Nevada

California-Nevada DEWS

Prepared By

Amanda Sheffield
California-Nevada DEWS Regional Drought Information Coordinator, NOAA/NIDIS, CIRES

Julie Kalansky
California Nevada Applications Program (CNAP), Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Special Thanks

This drought status update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the California-Nevada Applications Program, a NOAA RISA team, and the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute to communicate the current state of drought conditions in California-Nevada based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.