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Climate and Environment

From Space, A 'Shocking View' Of California's 'Relentless Drought'

An over head shot of land, both residential areas and undeveloped mountain areas, turns from green to brown.
An animated gif shows the change between the green topography of the Angeles National Forest in 2020 and a recent 2021 shot that appears more like a moonscape.
(Courtesy European Space Agency)
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California's drought is so bad you can see it from space. The European Space Agency this month took a series of satellite images of the Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Reservoir and compared them to images taken around the same time last year.

Researchers say the 2020 landscape appeared lush and green while the San Gabriel Reservoir was bright blue. Fast forward to 2021 and the same location is so dry it looks like the landscape of Mars.

Researchers describe the forest as red and scarred and they say the San Gabriel Reservoir is nearly empty. This area was the site of last year's Bobcat Fire, which burned more than 115,000 acres.

An animated gif shows the change between the green topography of the Angeles National Forest in 2020 and a recent 2021 shot that appears more like a moonscape.
(Courtesy European Space Agency)
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In the caption for imagery released, ESA researchers noted:

While you can never draw any conclusions about trends or the effects of climate change by comparing the weather in one year to another year, these two images, just one year apart, certainly offer a shocking view of the relentless drought that is gripping California. California is no stranger to heat and water shortages, but vast swathes of western U.S. are experiencing extremely dry conditions, the likes of which haven’t been seen there since 1977.

They note that California reported "its driest February in 150 years and 95% of the state is now a victim of ‘severe drought’."

Their conclusion? It "can only be bad news for the rest of the summer."

What questions do you have about Southern California?