May 16th, 2014
11:44 AM ET

How Bad is California's Drought?

One thing contributing to the wildfires in San Diego County is California's persistent drought.

drought california

This map shows the entire state of California is in dire need of water.

Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University, helped us understand just how bad conditions are on "New Day" Friday.

Horton told CNN's Michaela Pereira the dark red area is experiencing the most severe drought, impacting about 25 percent of the prime land that's used for agriculture.

"It's competition for water in an area that could be short on water, even in a good year," he said.


In this graph, you can see the rainfall this year vs. normal levels of rainfall in major California cities.

rainfall in california

This graph shows the decreased amount of rainfall dating back from July 1, 2013.

Horton explained California's last rainy season had about half the normal amount of rainfall throughout California.

"We had about three straight dry years," Horton said.

"Put it all together and we have major water shortage issues."


snow cap

Here you can see the difference in the snowpack, basically California's water reserve, from 2013 – 2014.

Horton said the comparison above shows how desperate the situation looks this year.

He said the snow cover becomes is the reservoir for the state as the rainy season ends.

"Right now there's maybe a fifth the amount of water you'd normally expect in the snowpack for this time of year," he said.

And higher temperatures are only adding to the problem.

"As temperatures go up, that snowpack tends to get smaller."


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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Ted

    I've tried three different web browsers to try to see the maps and graphs in this article, with no success. It's too bad you chose to show only the past year's time line of data: A few more years shows how variable CA rain and snow are, and how important it is to plan for those extremes.

    May 19, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Reply
    • TeamCNNCNN

      Hello, Ted,
      We're sorry you're having trouble viewing our graphics.
      Please contact our Tech Team, so that they may assist you with this issue. Here's the link to log a ticket:

      Thank you for being a part of our #NewDay!
      Lola / CNN VCM

      May 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Reply

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