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To End California's Drought, More Than 1 Foot of Rain Needs to Fall in a Month

Rain that will likely never arrive, that is.
A buoy on the cracked bed of California's Lake Mendocino, February, 2014.
A buoy on the cracked bed of California's Lake Mendocino, February, 2014.Associated Press

Every so often there comes an image that really brings home the West's damnable dryness. There was that photo of California's disappearing Folsom Lake, for instance, and now there's this: a map showing how much rain must fall in one month to end the reigning drought.

The map, tweeted out by NOAA, is an illustration in impossible outcomes. (It's dated for June, though with practically no rainfall in California since then it's safe to assume it still applies.) Though the northern and southeastern parts of the state would require a relatively modest-sounding 3 to 6 inches of rain to escape drought, the parched Central Valley (where so much of America's food is grown) needs a biblical dousing of 12 to as much as 15 inches. To put that in perspective, 15 inches of liquid precipitation is equal to 12.5 feet of snow.