How's this for perspective: The drought currently being endured by Californians is the worst in 1,200 years. Researchers who analyzed tree rings going back to 800 AD found that the three-year period from 2012 to 2014 ranks as the most severe over that span, reports the Los Angeles Times. Other stretches have had just as little precipitation, actually, but the high temperatures associated with the current drought gives it the worst-ever ranking. "We were really surprised," says study co-author Daniel Griffin of the University of Minnesota. "We didn't expect this."
But might an end be in sight? A major storm dumped lots of rain on California this week in what a state water official tells the San Jose Mercury News is a "good beginning." The problem is that things have been so parched for so long that California will need eight more big storms just like it before April to break the drought and refill its reservoirs. (The drought has been so severe that the Western US might actually be rising.)