With very few big storms this winter across the state, extreme drought now grips much of California, including the entire Bay Area. Water restrictions are in effect in 41 counties, and thousands of people are under evacuation orders in Southern California as a brush fire in the Palisades continues to burn.
California's parched condition is the result of multiple dry years and a lack of big storms, called atmospheric rivers, that douse the state with rain and snow.
With summer fast approaching, Jeff Nothwehr, GIS and web specialist for the National Drought Mitigation Center, created an animated gif for KQED showing the progression of California's drought conditions since last September.
The Bay Area received roughly half of its normal precipitation in 2019-20, followed by around 40% of normal this year, says Brian Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Francisco Bay Area.
“When we don't see atmospheric rivers during the winter months, we are in a world of hurt for precipitation for water in our state,” he said. “This year, we saw one atmospheric river really make its way across a portion of the Bay Area.”