It will take years of wet weather before California recovers from drought, study finds

When forecasters last year warned of a massive El Niño, some Californians held out hope that a single extremely wet year could bust the state’s severe drought.  

But a study published Tuesday in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, offered support for the argument that state hydrologists have been making for months: It will take several years to recover from the four-year water shortage.

Specifically, researchers studied the Sierra Nevada and found that the lackluster snowpack there, year after year, created a sizable water deficit that the state may not recoup until 2019.

“The main take-home is thinking about drought over longer time scales,” said the study’s principal investigator, Steve Margulis of UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. “The first wet year doesn’t necessarily solve the longer-term problem.”

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