GIFs: California Reservoirs From Drought to Deluge

Michael Animation, Data & Graphics, Photo April 20, 2017

A five-year drought in California ended spectacularly this winter, with the state emerging from one of its driest periods on record by enduring one of its wettest. Reservoirs, lakes, and mountainsides are now brimming with water and snow, though scientists caution that the unseen reservoirs—underground aquifers—are a long way from having the same bounty that is visible on the land surface. [Full post on NASA Earth Observatory]

Trinity Lake, the third largest reservoir in the state (after Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake). The artificial lake in northern California connects to the Trinity River and is part of the Sacramento basin. On April 29, 2015, Trinity stood at 59 percent of its historical average level for that date; by April 2, 2017, it stood at 114 percent.

Don Pedro Reservoir, California’s sixth largest, stands in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and connects to the Tuolumne River and the San Joaquin Valley Basin. When Landsat 8 acquired an image on February 26, 2015 (above), the reservoir stood at 61 percent of its long-term average level. By March 3, 2017, it had risen to 134 percent of average.

Castaic Lake, which is the 24th largest reservoir in California but the largest water storage in the Los Angeles area. It stood at just 42 percent of average water levels on February 11, 2015; by February 1, 2017, it was back up to 98 percent.