California drought-free for the first time in 7 years

A wet winter has replenished reservoirs and increased snowpacks.

    The state of California has been declared drought-free for the first time in more than seven years.

    Generous winter rains have filled the state's reservoirs and the Sierra Nevada snowpack is now 50 percent higher than average.

    This is the first time since mid-December of 2011 that the entire state has been classified as being free of drought, and the moisture deficit is not severe enough to cause social, environmental or economic hardship.

    The current picture marks a major improvement from just one year ago, when nearly 70 percent of California was still classified as suffering from moderate to severe drought. And only three years before that, the Sierra snowpack had dwindled to virtually zero.

    Meteorologists say extremes of weather, swinging from drought to deluge, will become increasingly common as the climate continues to change.

    Although California is now drought-free, many other parts of the United States are not as lucky. Currently, the worst conditions are in New Mexico, where the drought is in its severest category: exceptional. In a drought of this magnitude, widespread crop losses and shortages of water in reservoirs and streams are expected.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies