Drought Stricken California Suddenly Green

December 24th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Heavy rains over the last few weeks have led to a sudden greening of much of California, as revealed in yesterday’s color satellite image compared to exactly 1 year ago (click for full size):

NASA MODIS imagery of central and northern California on Dec. 23 of 2013 and 2014.

NASA MODIS imagery of central and northern California on Dec. 23 of 2013 and 2014.


Many stations in Northern California have recorded over 20 inches of rain, and Folsom Dam has received a whopping 62 inches of rain this month. Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in California, has erased almost half of its deficit below its normal level for this time of year.


20 Responses to “Drought Stricken California Suddenly Green”

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  1. The recent rains led to green… And Tule fog!!!!

    I’m in Fresno, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley pictured here. We’ve experienced more fog this year already than we had in the last two years prior. Fog normally occurs often here during the winter, and in normal years, we can go for days on end where the fog never completely goes away. The last two years, we were lucky if we had widespread fog for ten days total each year.

    I love the fog, but hate driving in it! 🙂

    • Gary Mount says:

      One December holiday time in the late 1980’s I drove from Vancouver B.C. to San Diego and if was foggy all the way down and all the way back. The fog persisted for 13 days, breaking all records, making for a lousy holiday. That’s how I remember it anyway.

  2. Gary H says:

    That’s cool. Thanksgiving weekend I was flying back from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Observing the landscape as we flew south . . well, looked just like the older photo – maybe even drier. The first rain was on it’s way in at the time – with the longer forecast calling for the second one as well.

    As I exited the plane I stuck my head in the cockpit and discussed how over the next couple of weeks, their view of CA would change to green.

    . . . and indeed it did.

  3. Beta Blocker says:

    All of this rain in California was simply Mother Nature’s own personal contribution to the American Geophysical Union meeting held in San Francisco last week.

    No one can keep Mother Nature from speaking her mind when she wants to, not even Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, and Dana Nuccitelli.

  4. H Clay Daulton says:

    The creek on my central San Joaquin valley ranch, that normally starts flowing in September before any rains, is still not flowing. The drought is definitely not yet over in terms of soil moisture, not by a long shot!

  5. John Olson says:

    Merry Christmas, Roy!

    The bitter cold and snow in November gave way to massive amounts of rain during the past few weeks here in western Washington. We are now on target to shatter our average annual rainfall (in Seattle, which is legendary for its sheer number of rainy days) by 50% in 2014! It will be the second-wettest year of record since 1948!

    The wettest year is likely to remain 1950 (55.14″), but we already have over 45″ this year, not counting the tremendous amount of rain added over the past several weeks. This despite all predictions by global warmists that CO2 will cause the rains to diminish, and the earth will be stricken by drought.

    This much water can only be delivered when evaporated from someplace else (the northern Pacific ocean?), which must necessarily result in an energy transfer from the place of evaporation to the place of precipitation – the west coast of the USA? It is likely any ocean “warming” will disappear as rain continues to fall.

    When the rains have adjusted the average water vapor level in the sky to the new solar output (lower evaporation rate, cooler temperature), it will be interesting to see if even more global cooling will result, or if the reduced cloud cover will yield some global warming?

  6. J Williams says:

    The recent rainfall is unquestionably good news for CA. But, I think the statement about Folsom Dam getting 62 inches of rain in a month is based on bogus data. This site (http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/queryDaily?FLD) suggests that the site received 48 inches of rain in one day, which is clearly wrong. But again, the rainfall is certainly welcome.

  7. dave says:

    According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology on Dec 24th, 2014-15 will likely be remembered as a weak or borderline El Nino.

  8. Chris says:

    While snow pack remains below average for the year so far and merely a little ahead of last year. It is not the time for pooping champagne corks yet. This is more like forgetting what a normal winter looks like and celebrating it as an extremely good winter.

  9. RW says:

    WOW. Amazing difference.

  10. JohnKl says:

    Hi Roy,

    It will likely comfort few to remember that no matter how much rain California receives, no matter how much snow-pack forms on our mountains and plains and no matter how unusually high the rainfall proves to be in this arid south west region our all too predictable politicians will manage to create a DROUGHT! Whether they dump millions of acre feet of water into the ocean to save the Delta Smelt or to reduce 2nd use water supply, simply refuse to build reservoirs for decades (3 last I read)while allowing millions of illegal/undocumented people to enter the state or waste untold billions on projects beneficial to few our dependable pols can be counted on to create disasters. We should be reflect on how willfully self-destructive these policies prove to be. Not that that will change anyone’s behavior… Just sayin…

    Have a great day and a Happy New year!!!

  11. Corky Metcalf says:

    The 20 inch figure is believable, the 60 inches is not.

    Folsom Dam has recorded 11.73 inches of rainfall since October 1.

    Shasta Dam has 33.79 inches.

    cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/queryDaily?FLD

    This is the California Data Exchange Center web site.

    Where did your info come from?

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  13. Regy Bo says:

    So Roy you think that one average or above average winter (precipitation) tells us that climate change is not happening?

    Nevermind the fact that where I am from we have random days that shoot up to 40+ degrees (c)from about 30 degrees(c). This never happened when I was a kid (and yes I was paying attention because I was interested in the weather, as oppose to “right-wingers” ,who are all now suddenly interested in the weather because they hate people talking so much about the weather and the environment because they are unstable and irrational righ-wing voters) it was generally a gradual climb up towards higher temperatures rather than sudden spikes, moreover within the space of 40 years rainfall has dropped off aproximately %15 over the region. This is a rapid change in the environment! What is the catylst for such a rapid change? Loads of pollution caused by humans!

    Even if climate change was not occuring you think all the pollution humans create is OK and that we shouldn’t change our ways? Give me a break! Would you continuously throw rubbish on the floor of your home (a confined environment) and say that it is not a problem??

    I guess you wont publish my comments because you don’t agree with them?

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