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California Drought Update: There’s Good News, And Bad

While the level of statewide drought has been improving, La Niña predictions suggest California could be in for even more dryness later this year.

When it comes to California's ongoing drought, there's good news and bad news. While the level of statewide drought has been decreasing over the past year, La Niña predictions suggest California could be in for more dryness in the near future.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Drought Monitor show less drought throughout the state today compared to the same time last year. About 60 percent of the state is still in severe drought or worse, but that's down from about 95 percent one year ago.

However, California could be in for less than average rainfall this winter. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 75 percent chance of a La Niña forming during this upcoming fall.

La Niña, the flipside of El Niño, is a cooling pattern in the equatorial Pacific. Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate researcher David Pierce said while El Niño tends to bring higher than average rainfall to California, La Niña tends to make the state drier.

"The indications at this point are an enhanced chance of a dry winter, which is unfortunate because we just had this normal winter that helped us," Pierce said.

Pierce said La Niña predictions are just that — predictions. And California's current drought has at times been stubbornly unpredictable. But, he said, there's reason to think California won't emerge from the drought anytime soon.

"We only had one year of normal conditions," Pierce said. "We had this two-year deficit of precipitation on top of that. So I personally think that a kind of defensive position, as far as our water resources, is warranted at this point."

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