24,500,000,000,000 gallons of water slammed into California amid relentless storms, student scientist estimates

24,500,000,000,000 gallons of water slammed into California amid relentless storms, student scientist estimates

24,500,000,000,000 gallons of water slammed into California amid relentless storms, student scientist estimates

For weeks, California has been facing a deluge of deadly thunderstorms which led to the partial collapse of roads, the flooding of neighborhoods and the evacuation of thousands of people. But how much water has the state bombed?

Colin McCarthy, a freshman atmospheric science student at the University of California, Davis who has become something of a public figure on the subject, might have the answer. According to his calculations, at least 24.5 trillion gallons of water have been dumped in the 16 days since the series of storms began on Dec. 26.

He used a calculation method that was touted by the Farmer’s Almanac to determine the number, as well as a determination by the National Weather Prediction Center that estimated the entire state received an average of 8.61 inches of water during this period.

“One inch of precipitation in one acre equals approximately 27,154 gallons of water,” he told CBS News on Thursday. “And so I did that 27,000 times 8.61, then [multiplied] by the number of acres in California, and that’s how I came to this conclusion.”

The storm fronts that have hit California in recent weeks have been driven by several atmospheric rivers, long regions of the atmosphere that transport water. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these weather events trap water vapor that is about the same amount as the average water flow at the mouth of the Mississippi River. So when they hit the ground, much of this vapor is released as snow or rain.

These events essentially flooded the California coastline, with multiple atmospheric rivers since Boxing Day pounding the state. On Wednesday, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services reported at least 18 deaths from the latest storm.

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This image provided by the National Weather Service shows the few inches of rain that fell over parts of central California from December 26 through noon January 12.

NWS Western Region Headquarters


NOAA told CBS News that it does not measure precipitation in the way McCarthy calculated. However, Sarah Rogowski of the National Weather Service’s Regional Operations Center was able to provide CBS News with additional context on the rain deluge, including maps that may indicate the amount of rain calculated in various fields from December 26 to January 12.

“Broadcast heavy rains were observed beginning in late December and continuing through early to mid-January,” Rogowski said.

“Areas of California’s central and northern coast as well as the Sierra foothills have seen between 15 and 20 inches of rain over the past few weeks,” she added.

Several regions experienced record rainfall. San Francisco, for example, rang in the New Year with 5.46 inches of rain during the 24-hour period on December 31. It marked “the second wettest day in more than 170 years of records from this site,” according to the weather service. said. This amount represents almost 47% of the precipitation for the entire month of December.

Meanwhile, Oakland had its wettest day on record since 1970, with 4.75 inches of rain recorded on Dec. 31, the weather service reported.

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This image provided by the National Weather Service shows the few inches of rain dumped over parts of Southern California from December 26 through noon January 12.

NWS Western Region Headquarters


The rain, Rogowski said, is expected to persist for at least another week, until around January 19. After that, she said, “the Climate Prediction Center shows below normal precipitation favored across the state” through Jan. 26.

“It was a historically significant period of precipitation, for sure,” McCarthy told CBS News.

And while it proved deadly, the rainfall also provided respite. for the great drought that has plagued the state for months.

McCarthy, who has been tracking and sharing information about extreme weather for years, and has garnered national attention for Hurricane Iansaid that since the storms began, “the extreme drought has pretty much disappeared from California.”

“We’ve gone from a lot of the state experiencing extreme drought from the South Central Valley to the Oregon border, and now the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego is only experiencing moderate drought,” McCarthy said.

“We need wetter than average conditions to continue through the winter if we’re going to eliminate drought in much of California,” he added.

According to the latest numbers from the US Drought Monitor on Thursday, no region of California was in the “exceptional drought” category this week. Just a month ago, 7.2% of the state fell into this category.

The “extreme drought” category has also seen a significant drop – from more than 35% a month ago to just 0.3% today.

About 95% of California is now considered in the “moderate drought” category, which means pasture growth is stunted, landscapes and gardens need earlier irrigation, and ponds and streams are lower than usual.

Although there has been some improvement, Rogowski said the long-term drought remains an ongoing issue.

“Reservoir storage deficits, deep soil moisture deficits and significant groundwater depletions that have built up over months or even years will require additional rainfall to overcome,” she said. declared. “It took years to get into this drought, and it will potentially take years to fully recover.”

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