California records driest year since 1924 amid punishing drought and raging wildfires

State saw just half its average rain and snowfall in 2021 ‘water year’

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Monday 18 October 2021 21:09
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Western US Drought Expected to Persist Through 2022 and Beyond

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California has recorded its driest year in nearly a century amid punishing drought conditions and raging wildfires.

The state saw a total of just 11.87 inches of rain and snow fall across California in the 2021 “water year”, the lowest level seen since 1924.

The Western Regional Climate Center came up with the data by averaging all of the measured precipitation from each climate station in the state from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, which is how the US Geological Survey measures the year.

The total is less than half the state’s average number, which is around 23.58 inches, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The data means that the latest water year is the second driest on record, says the California Department of Water Resources.

It comes as California has been subjected to record heat, blistering droughts and widespread wildfires that experts say is driven by the climate crisis.

In July, Death Valley set the highest daily average temperature ever seen on Earth of 118.1 degrees F, after a low of 107.7 was followed by a high of 128.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The astonishing heat was recorded at the Stovepipe Wells weather station in the northern part of Death Valley National Park.

The Furnace Creek area of the park also saw a high of 130 degrees, equalling a mark seen the previous August, and the highest temperature recorded since at least 1931.

And based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, July 2021 was the driest month on record in California since records began in 1895.

And by the same measurement, June, July and August were three out of the state’s five driest months on record.

California has also been hit by a string of destructive wildfires that have scorched large swathes of the state.

The wildfires have burned nearly 3,900 square miles this year and destroyed more than 3,600 homes, businesses and other structures, according to the state Department of Forestry.

And CalFire says that nine of the state’s 20 biggest ever wildfires have taken place since 2020.

The US Drought Monitor, a weekly map that shows conditions across the country, stated that as of 12 October 87.18 of California was suffering extreme or exceptional drought.

“I think we can always be hopeful but we should plan for continued dry conditions,” said Diane Riddle, the assistant deputy director of the State Division of Water Rights.

“The message to all Californians is to conserve as much as you can, prepare for drought.”

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