Watch 13 Years of Drought in California in 30 Seconds



If you stare at the animation above long enough, you just might pick up on a pattern or two. The animation, created by stringing together weekly California drought observations from the United States Drought Monitor for more than 13 years, highlights the unprecedented nature of California’s ongoing drought compared to other boom and bust precipitation cycles since 2001.

Feast and Famine

California is a land of precipitation extremes. For seven months out of the year the state experiences little snow and rain. Then, starting in November, changes in the jet stream push moisture into the area and for the next five months California’s mountains and waterways are once again lush with water.

Take San Francisco, for example. As senior digital meteorologist Jon Erdman notes, the city experiences 85 percent of its yearly rainfall in just five months. But such pronounced seasonality comes with a tremendous risk.

When wet seasons aren’t as wet, California starts to dry up and the state cycles from feast to famine. Only, for the past couple of years, that cycle has all but disappeared.


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