Environment & Science

Slideshow: What's Griffith Park telling us about drought in LA?

Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Jed Kim/KPCC
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Light rain has penetrated scant layers of silt that has been baking for months during the dry winter. A spider web of cracks are the result. This photo was taken on March 6, 2014.
Jed Kim
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Biologist Dan Cooper conducts wildlife surveys around Southern California. On March 6, 2014, he observes conditions in Griffith Park.
Jed Kim
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Little growth can be seen in Griffith Park on March 6, 2014.
Jed Kim
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Dichelostemma lilies have started to grow at Griffith Park after some rain earlier in the week.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Chocolate lily buds have started growing at Griffith Park. Plant blooming has been delayed about two months because of the drought.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
After some rain earlier in the week, Griffith Park is a little more green.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Ceanothus plants have started to bloom in Griffith Park.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
Biologist Dan Cooper checks a wildflower that has bloomed two months later than normal because of late season rains.
Jed Kim
Dried grasses cover most of the hills in Griffith Park on February 5, 2014
This picture, taken on April 22, 2014, shows that late spring rains, though meager, helped transform Griffith Park into a much greener space.
Jed Kim


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The drought has got us thinking: what would L.A. would look like without sprinklers? Above its watered golf courses and picnic areas, Griffith Park is a snapshot of Southern California without the lattice of irrigation pipes.

At the moment, the park is a shining emerald of green, which may seem counterintuitive, since the state is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. Biologists said that late season rains have helped awaken plants that normally grow earlier in the winter. While the plants are making a late rally from the searingly dry early winter months, their success does not mean an end to the drought.

“The plants are not a good indicator of how bad the situation is," said Dan Cooper, a biologist who conducts wildlife surveys around Southern California. "We can be fooled by looking at all these wildflowers and greenery and thinking we’re out of the drought, but just because you see a lot of green and wildflowers, we’re definitely not out of the drought.”

Cooper has been regularly visiting the park since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January. The photos below depict how Griffith Park has been faring since.

February 5

Albert Torres, senior park ranger

Albert Torres, a senior park ranger, looks over Griffith Park a few weeks after the declaration. The park is extremely dry, and the moisture level of plants is  below 60 percent. That's considered critical when it comes to the potential for wildfire. Behind Torres, a golf course — one of the irrigated spots within the park — shines green.  

“This is the type of situation where it’s indicative of the drought that we are experiencing," Torres said. "You see that there’s not a big resurgence in the plant life.”

March 6

Dan Cooper in Griffith Park

A week after heavy downpours caused mudslides in some parts of Los Angeles County, the ground is spongy and sending up some shoots. Biologist Dan Cooper checks a favorite spot of his for finding rare plants. Some plants are just putting up shoots, but they are mostly too young to identify. Cooper is unsure whether they would survive. 

April 4

Griffith park plants

Days after light showers fall on the region, Cooper points out plants starting to grow at Griffith Park. He says as long as it doesn't stay continuously hot for the next months, plants will bloom.

April 22

Griffith Park is much greener after rains

Though no more rain has fallen, Griffith Park is still vibrant due to the moisture contained within the soil. However, Cooper says that much of the plant growth is delayed. This is a picture you would normally see in the park in February.