Jan 29, 2016

El Niño is here, so why is California still in drought?

California
USA
by
Andrea Thompson
,
Wx Shift
An above-average amount of snow covers a small cabin in Phillips, Calif., Dec. 30, 2015. Photo: Fred Greaves, Reuters
An above-average amount of snow covers a small cabin in Phillips, Calif., Dec. 30, 2015. Photo: Fred Greaves, Reuters

A parade of El Niño-fueled storms has marched over California in the last few weeks, bringing bouts of much needed rain and snow to the parched state. But maps of drought conditions there have barely budged, with nearly two-thirds of the state still in the worst two categories of drought.

The short answer, experts say, is that the drought built up over several years (with help from hotter temperatures fueled in part by global warming) and it will take many more storms and almost assuredly more than a single winter — even one with a strong El Niño — to erase it.

The issue for California comes down to this: there are short-term drought impacts and long-term ones.