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How much rain will it take to end California’s drought?

POSTED: |

9.21.15

To nudge California out of drought territory, it will take almost double the amount of rain that falls in a normal year during the upcoming rainy season that starts in less than two weeks, according to a recent analysis prepared by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists.

As flood-control channels surge, records would shatter. Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley — the state’s agricultural heartland — would need between 160 percent and 198 percent of normal rainfall, wrote NOAA meteorologist Tom Di Liberto, in a Sept. 11 paper titled “How Deep of a Precipitation Hole Is California In.”

That kind of record rainfall — something that has occurred three times in the past 135 years — only would lift the state from the bottom 20 percent of precipitation totals, the lowest possible rainfall cumulation that no longer qualifies as drought by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. In academic terms, California would score a passing grade — barely.

If the state were to reach 50 percent for five-year (2011-2016) rainfall totals, Di Liberto calculates the coast of Southern California would have to experience rainfall at 300 percent of normal, or about 53 inches in one year, about 15 inches above the wettest year on record for Los Angeles.

“This deficit isn’t so much a hole as a giant chasm,” he wrote.

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