(CBS/AP) - Two photos, one taken on February 1, 2014 and another taken on January 31, 2015 show just how much the Sierra snowpack was diminished over the last year.
NOAA posted the side-by-side satellite images taken by Suomi NPP satellite on its website Monday. On the left side, you see the state is mostly brown -- nothing new since the drought began -- but there's no mistaking the white stuff blanketing the Sierra and parts of western Nevada.
The right side of the image is dramatically different. Most of the state is green because of a series of atmospheric rivers that brought rain to the state at the end of 2014. But compared to 2014, there's only a fraction of the snow in the Sierra. The state has hardly received any rain or snow since, making January the driest month on record for California.
In addition to lack of precipitation, warmer-than-normal temperatures were also to blame for a lower Sierra snowpack over the last year. Last week's snowpack survey found a snowpack water equivalent of just 2.3 inches near Echo Summit. It amounted to just 12 percent of the long-term average for this time of year at the snow course.
The snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed by state residents, agriculture and industry. A higher snowpack translates to more water for California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall.
The latest survey makes it likely that the drought will run through a fourth consecutive year. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency on Jan. 17, 2014.
Brown's office said the latest survey underlines the need for sustained water conservation.
"Today's snow survey is a stark reminder that California's drought is far from over," Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown, said in a statement.
Water resources managers say heavy rain and cooler temperatures in the next three months would be required for the snowpack to build and give Californians hope for beginning to recover from the drought this year.
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