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Drought Update: Historic storms don't end California drought; Kansas conditions worsening

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California State Snowpack MeasurementMembers of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program check snowpack this winter.California's severe winter led Gov. Jerry Brown in January, 2017, to declare a state of emergency, which remains under effect, to help communities respond and recover from flooding caused by the historic storms. Despite that, the state also remains in a drought state of emergency, declared by Gov. Brown in January of 2014.

That dichotomy illustrates how difficult it can be to define when a drought ends. In the case of California, the state experiences wide swings in precipitation from year to year, so experts hesitate to declare the drought over. Additional factors such as reservoir levels, snowpack and groundwater supplies also must be considered before rescinding the emergency declaration.

To better understand all the issues at play, read this story about California's drought by Adam Nagourney of The New York Times

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the 2015 Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Part of the Initiative's continuing effort is to share the latest news about drought and its impact on the West.

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor report released March 9 shows good snow totals in Montana helped improve "abnormally dry conditions." However, moderate to extreme drought spread in Oklahoma and Texas and abnormally dry conditions expanded over southeast Nebraska. In southwest and south-central Kansas, moderate and severe drought expanded slightly. Also from the report:
  • More than 50% of Colorado is now classified as abnormally dry, and another 37% is considered in moderate drought, despite far above-normal snowpack levels.
  • The news is better in South Dakota, where the latest climate outlook from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration predicts a wetter than average spring, especially in western and central South Dakota. That's good news for farmers and ranchers dealing with dry conditions since last growing season.
  • For the first time since 2011, the state of Oregon has been declared drought-free

Learn more ...

Read the Western Governors' Drought Forum Report, which is arranged around seven key themes that emerged during the first year of the Forum, and view a video update.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook.