American Geophysical IUnion

Only 11 trillion gallons more needed to break California drought

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) — around 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir — to recover from California’s continuing drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data. The finding was part of a sobering update on the state’s drought made possible by space and airborne measurements and presented by NASA scientists Dec. 16 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Such data are giving scientists an unprecedented ability to identify key features of droughts, data that can be used to inform water management decisions. A team of scientists led by Jay Famiglietti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites to develop the first-ever calculation of this kind — the volume of water required to end an episode of drought. Earlier this year, at the peak of California’s current three-year drought, the team found that water storage in the state’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels. Data collected since the launch of GRACE in 2002 shows this deficit has increased steadily.  READ MORE »

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