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This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor declared that 100 percent of California is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought.
Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the National Climatic Data Center, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss which parts of the state are most affected and what steps are being taken to deal with it.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
And a quick check in now on the drought that is devastating much of the west. This week, for the first time ever, the U.S. Drought Monitor has declared that 100 percent of the state of California is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, 100 percent.
Richard Heim is a meteorologist with the National Climatic Data Center. He's with us now. Richard, how significant is that?
RICHARD HEIM: That's pretty significant. If you look at the precipitation over California for the last 30 months - October 2011 to March 2014 - that's the driest such 30-months period in the 1895 to 2014 record.
HOBSON: Wow. And even though we see in the forecast today in some of the cities in California, there's rain in the forecast, but that's not enough you're saying.
HEIM: That's - that would be really great if you got rain. If you got a couple of inches, fantastic. But if you look at the deficits that have accumulated over the last six months, 12 months, 36 months, parts of California are 20 inches or more behind in rain for the last six months. So two inches, three inches will be great, but it's not going to make a huge dent in the drought.
HOBSON: What about the snowpack in the mountains? Is that going to help at all once that starts to melt?
HEIM: There's not much snowpack up there to melt. This has been a very low snowpack winter season for the mountains of California. And really, you need a heavy snowpack to melt in the spring to replenish the reservoirs and the irrigation water. There just isn't that much snow up there to melt this spring.
HOBSON: So is there any relief in sight at this point?
HEIM: You really have to talk to the Weather Service forecasters. We were entering the dry season, though, so any precip that we get is not going to be your heavy precip you usually get in the winter.
HOBSON: And we say here that 100 percent of the state of California is in moderate to exceptional drought, but they are not the only state that is dealing with this drought. As you look across the west, how serious is it in other states?
HEIM: It's very serious in Eastern New Mexico and Western Texas. For example, the Texas Panhandle has had the driest 36-month period on record - I'm sorry - 42-month period on record - October 2011 to March 2014. Other parts - it's dry in the Central Plains. It's dry in other parts of the southwest. We're looking at a pretty serious drought nationwide here.
HOBSON: Richard Heim of the National Climatic Data Center, talking with us about California, which is now 100 percent of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, is in moderate to severe drought. Richard, thanks.
HEIM: You're welcome, Jeremy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.