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NASA: 11 Trillion Gallons of Rain Water Needed to End California’s Drought

16 Dec 2014, 4:19 pm

calif drought

According to a new report from NASA, it will take more than 11 trillion gallons of rain water to reverse the effects of California’s three-year drought. Just for a bit of perspective, the entire San Francisco Bay estuary only holds about two trillion gallons of water.

Where did this massive number originate?

The short answer is this: NASA satellites.

These findings were reported as part of a Dec. 16 presentation to some of the best scientific minds in the world — at the American Geophysical Union’s annual conference, in San Francisco, Calif.

The research was done by a team of scientists from NASA’s Joint Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Using the NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, NASA researchers were able to estimate the volume of water needed to stop the drought in its tracks — the first time that’s ever been done.

Jay Famiglietti, the lead scientist on the project, explains how it works, “Spaceborne and airborne measurements of Earth’s changing shape, surface height and gravity field now allow us to measure and analyze key features of droughts better than ever before, including determining precisely when they begin and end and what their magnitude is at any moment in time.”

“That’s an incredible advance and something that would be impossible using only ground-based observations,” he continued.

And the observations of the satellite are staggering. Since 2011, the San Joaquin and Sacramento river basins have lost nearly four trillion gallons of water every year. Nearly two-thirds of that loss has been from California’s Central Valley region — one of the most agriculturally active areas in the entire country.

And despite the impressive rains of late, it could take years for California’s water table to fully recover.

“I think it’s probably going to take us two or three winters, of above precipitation, to really get us back to average wetness conditions. Having enough water in our reservoirs, having ground water levels recharged to the point where it’s more ‘business as usual’ and not this extreme drought,” Famiglietti told WeatherNation in an interview.


And in a bit of good news, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has above average wetness conditions for much of California, through the winter. But, be that as it may, it’s still the start of a long process of pulling California out of a long, arduous drought.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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