11 trillion. 11,000,000,000,000. However, you wrap your brain around it, that number is hard to fathom. But that's how many gallons of water California's three-year drought has sucked from the Earth, according to NASA.
In coordination with airborne measurements and orbiting satellites, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory created first-of-its-kind data by calculating the volume of water lost during a drought. The results are somewhat apocalyptic. The Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins plummeted almost 4 trillion gallons every year since 2011. Exactly how bad is that? Well, NASA says it's more water than California uses for domestic and municipal purposes. It's also twice as much as the Colorado River's annual flow, and 1.5 times as much as the U.S. largest reservoir, Lake Mead. So...pretty bad.
NASA used Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data and snowpack measurements via NASA's Airborne Snow Observatory to piece together this frightening puzzle. The observatory records snowpack by measuring the amount of water inside and the amount of sunlight the snow reflects. Unfortunately, the news isn't much better there either.
"The 2014 snowpack was one of the lowest on record and the worst since 1977, when California's population was half what it is now," JPL's Tom Painter said in a release.
The only solution is time. Just as it took years for the drought to get this bad, it will also need years to recover. [NASA]