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Climate Change Causing CA Drought?

ocko, ilissa, edfCalifornia has officially entered its fourth consecutive year of drought, and is trapped in its worst water shortage situation ever.

Because we know that human-caused climate change can trigger and exacerbate drought conditions, media, public officials, California residents and scientists have all been wondering for years if rising global temperatures likely caused or contributed to the current drought in California.

The short answer: Yes, they did.

Weather won’t cooperate

Scientists have suspected for some time now that a certain meteorological condition lies behind the long-lasting California drought. The persistence of a stubborn high-pressure system off the coast has been preventing storm systems from reaching California and instead deflecting them to Alaska and elsewhere.

While weather events are almost always multi-causal, the California drought is largely a result of this atmospheric weather pattern. The question is whether climate change has influenced the development, or sustenance, of this system.

Stanford scientists connected the dots

When destructive event happen, people want to know right then and there what’s going on— whether it’s an epidemic, riot or weather disaster.

But evaluating an extreme weather event for climate change influences is a scientific process that takes several months of computer simulations and statistical techniques. It can frustrate some who demand an answer right away.

Well, the results from several, month-long studies are finally in. Scientists from Stanford have found that the meteorological conditions that have caused the California drought are far more likely to occur in today’s warming world than in one without human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases.

It shows us – ironically and tragically – that the state that leads the nation in curbing greenhouse gas emissions is right now suffering more than any other from climate change.

California is not alone

The California drought attribution studies are a subset of alarger collection of recently published studies that explain 16 extreme weather and climate events of 2013.

Twenty research teams explored the causes of events such as heat waves in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, China, and Europe; torrential downpours in Colorado and India, a blizzard in South Dakota, and a cold spell in the United Kingdom.

The studies overwhelmingly indicated that all heat waves were largely attributable to human-caused climate change. One study even suggested that the heat wave in Korea has been made 10 times more likely due to human influence.

The extreme rainfall events in India were concluded to have been more likely in a human-influenced world, but data for assessing precipitation events is rather limited as compared to heat haves. Further, studies concluded that the extreme rainfall event in Colorado, the blizzard in South Dakota, and the cold spell in the U.K. were unlikely to have been influenced by climate change.

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6 thoughts on “Climate Change Causing CA Drought?

  1. I wonder if the dust bowl was related to the same warming trend or if people misused resources? Hopefully the new water use app will allow people to shame their neighbors in to resource management. <—-sarcasm

  2. Why didn’t anyone have the sense to run a pipeline from one central location to each state? Why not think of water that can help each state who needs it, and take from states that have an abundance of it? Is it because water is usually free, and oil isn’t?

  3. Alaska resident here. The weather system causing the redirection of weather is called a “chinook” as it pushes over the Alaska Range and when it comes down the northern side it compresses and heats up. This used to happen once, maybe twice a year. For the last few years, matching to drought in California, it has been a monthly occurence, summer and winter both. This has wt record temperature and the average warming in Alaska is three to four times the world average. Not a bad thing where I live as the number of days reaching -40 are a fourth of what they used to be. The only bad effect has been the increaced population causing die outs of traditional trees and a larger population of wasps and hornets which are surviving the winters much better than in the past.

  4. Considering there has been no global warming for the past 18 years, your conclusion are flawed. Please provide links to your assertations that all heat waves have been human induced.

  5. The article does provide a link to the very studies you call for, Red – did you not see it? I clicked on it and it brought me right to the studies themselves.

    And there has been global warming over the past 18 years – of course there has been. How ludicrous to suggest otherwise. There is a veritable mountain of evidence affirming that reality. I’ll leave you to go look it up for yourself – if you dare. The IPCC report would be a great place to start, since it contains references to a huge number of scientific papers containing the data and study results backing up that conclusion.

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