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Incredible before-and-after imagery shows impact of California wildfires and drought

By Angela Fritz, CNN

Remarkable satellite images captured a year apart illustrate the severity of the California drought and the impact of the 2020 Bobcat Fire and Ranch 2 Fire in Los Angeles County.

Between June 2020 and June 2021, Angeles National Forest went from green and lush to brown and parched. Water in three reservoirs — San Gabriel, Morris and Cogswell — has declined significantly. All of the reservoirs are outlined in brown in the 2021 shot, denoting how much the water level has dropped.

The Bobcat fire burned nearly 115,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains and some of the surrounding area between September and December. It was one of the largest fires in Los Angeles County history.

The European Space Agency shared the imagery of the forest, which is just north of the greater Los Angeles area, on its Facebook page earlier this week.

All of California is in some level of drought, according to the US Drought Monitor, and at increased risk of wildfires. About 33 percent of the state is in “exceptional drought,” the most severe classification.

Water emergencies are expected in exceptional drought, along with severe and widespread crop and pasture loss. That’s exactly what millions of Californians are experiencing.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in April, then expanded it in May as conditions continued to deteriorate. One month later, nearly 2 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area were placed under a water shortage emergency.

Water in a key Northern California reservoir — Lake Oroville — is expected to fall so low this summer that its hydroelectric power plant will likely be forced to shut down for the first time since it opened in 1967.

The drought’s impact is even appearing in Sacramento’s drinking water, which lately has had an “earthy'” taste and smell, according to residents who have complained to the city’s utility officials. Low levels in reservoirs and rivers led to an increase in the concentration of geosmin in the water, one of two organic compounds that give dirt its characteristic smell. The water doesn’t taste or smell great, but officials are assuring residents it is safe to drink.

Correction: This story has been updated to include the impact of the Bobcat Fire and Ranch 2 Fire in 2020.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jon Passantino, Alexandra Meeks and Rachel Ramirez contributed to this story.

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