We're in the fifth year of California's drought and the state's dead trees are elevating forest fire risks. But last month, the California government ended its water restrictions.
The wet winter in the northern counties of California helped fill reservoirs and return snow to the Sierras, but it didn't bring the water level back to the pre-drought conditions of five years ago. There's still two to three years of rain missing in the Sierra Nevada and much of Southern California.
In a briefing this week, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said that California’s trees will continue to die due to drought for at least three more years, and this year’s switch to La Niña probably won’t help. The long-term trends show that should the warmth of the recent past continue, California will continue to have less snowpack for a long time to come. “This is not weather,” Tidwell said. “This is climate change. That's what we’re dealing with.”