Following a years-long drought, California has experienced a record-breaking wet winter which has recharged surface water supplies across the state, reports Emily Benson. In fact, more than three-quarters of the state’s reservoirs are now above historical average capacity.
“The lessons forecasters and reservoir managers are learning this year could help them deal with the uncertain future ahead,” says Benson.
Nevada and Wyoming are also having their wettest winter on record. Variable winter weather isn’t new in the West, says Benson, but experts say that climate change is likely intensifying fluctuations in precipitation.
The wild swings in the last few years have “revealed the need for dams, reservoirs, spillways and other water infrastructure that can cope with a wide range of snowfall and rain,” says Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California Davis—a need that will likely only “grow as climate change pushes extreme storms beyond the bounds of historical conditions,” says Benson.