Category: Monitoring Drought
Project Team: California Water Resources
Team Location: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Pasadena, California
Dr. John T. Reager (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Nick Rousseau (Center Lead)
2015 marked the arrival of the strongest El Niño ever recorded, surpassing the 1997-1998 event that brought significant rainfall to the southwestern United States. As sea surface temperatures in the Central Pacific increased, it was forecasted that this event may have similar effects and alleviate what the U.S. Drought Monitor classifies as “exceptional” drought across California. However, the effects from the drought, now in its fifth year, continue to strain municipal and agricultural water supplies throughout the state. Our team used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), and Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Earth observations, as well as meteorological surface observations from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and historical reservoir levels from the California Department of Water Resources to gain a more complete understanding of water resources in California. Together with our partners at NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) regional office in Oxnard, California, our study employs NASA Earth observations to better quantify impacts of the 2015-16 El Niño event and determine how much drought recovery occurred throughout the state over the course of the wet season. Specifically, monthly GRACE measurements of terrestrial water storage allow for a better understanding of subsurface resources, a parameter often omitted from drought assessments. We also analyzed monthly precipitation and temperature trends in relation to droughts and El Niño–Southern Oscillation patterns with climatological history from NOAA dating back to 1895.