You may not have noticed the change, but drought conditions in Santa Barbara County have now deteriorated from "extreme" to "exceptional."
That's according to maps released this week by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a consortium that includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The maps, which are updated every Thursday, are based on "measurements of climatic, hydrologic and soil conditions, as well as reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country."
Until this week, only the northern part of Santa Barbara County had been included in the most-severe designation — exceptional drought."
Now, all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have the dreaded designation, as does much of Ventura County.
Locally, rainfall totals and reservoir levels remain bleak, although forecasters are expressing confidence that the area will get some rainfall — possibly even a good soaking — late next week.
Santa Barbara and Goleta stand at 13 percent of average precipitation for the rain season that began Sept. 1, 2013.
Santa Maria and Lompoc are slightly better off, at 19 and 20 percent, respectively, and most other areas of the county fall somewhere in between.
Lake Cachuma, a major water source for the South Coast and the Santa Ynez Valley, is at only 38.9 percent of capacity, and more than 52 feet below spill level.
Gibraltar Reservoir is nearly dry at only 1.4 percent of capacity, while Jameson Reservoir on the upper reaches of the Santa Ynez River stands at 26.9 percent.
Sunny skies and pleasant days are expected through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, followed by a switch to wetter conditions.
There is a chance of showers Wednesday and Thursday, but forecasters were not expecting significant rainfall totals.
"The big news continues to be next Friday and Saturday, with all models continuing to forecast a substantial storm," according to a statement on the National Weather Service's website.
Daytime highs Saturday through Monday are expected around 70, with overnight lows in the mid-40s.