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California mega-drought worst in 1,200 years say scientists (and it's still getting worse)


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(NaturalNews) Despite a recent downpour of rain in parts of Southern California, the state continues to suffer through its worst drought in centuries, according to the most recent research data.

Scientists who are currently examining the collective effects of temperature, low amounts of precipitation and other factors have discovered that the drought conditions in the state (and surrounding areas) are the worst in 1,200 years. In addition, scientists and climatologists say that the worst is yet to come, as drought is almost certain to continue or return in the future.

California suffering worst drought in over a thousand years

As reported by Britain's Telegraph newspaper:

A combination of record high temperatures and sparse rainfall during California's three-year drought have produced the worst conditions in 1,200 years, according to a study accepted for publication by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

"The current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures," the report's authors said in the study released just a few days ago.

The data, collected by the University of Minnesota and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, appear to indicate that warm, dry conditions have led to a dramatic shrinking of surface water from reservoirs, streams and the Sierra Nevada snowpack in the state, though demand has risen from agricultural production and human consumption. The combination has led to an historic scarcity of water.

California's 'old blue oaks' tell the story

Assistant Prof. Daniel Griffin, with the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota, along with Kevin Anchukaitis, assistant scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, asked, "How unusual is the ongoing California drought?" as the central question in their research study. To find the answer, they collected new tree ring samples from blue oaks in southern and central California.

"California's old blue oaks are as close to nature's rain gauges as we get," Griffin pointed out, according to The Telegraph. "They thrive in some of the driest environments where trees can grow in California."

In particular, the trees are notably sensitive to moisture changes, so their tree rings vividly display such occurrences in nature.

"We were genuinely surprised at the result," Griffin - a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate & Global Change Fellow and former WHOI postdoctoral scholar, said.

"This is California - drought happens," he continued. "Time and again, the most common result in tree-ring studies is that drought episodes in the past were more extreme than those of more recent eras.

'This time, however, the result was different," he observed. "One thing is clear, drought is going to continue to happen. This is the kind of thing we get to see in the future."

The authors noted that there is ample evidence of past, sustained, multi-decade droughts - so-called "megadroughts" - in California. But the authors of the study noted that in the past, those episodes were most likely pock marked with occasional wet years, though the overall cumulative effect over those decades was overall dry conditions.

Recent storms provide minimal relief

As further reported by The Telegraph:

The current short-term drought appears to be worse than any previous span of consecutive years of drought without reprieve.

It comes as California is experiencing a wet start to December that could result in 12-inches (30 cm) of rain and yards (meters) of snow over the next two weeks, according to the forecasting service Accuweather.

Two months ago, the AGU published a study conducted by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, which found that the Dust Bowl-era U.S. drought in 1934 - which was widespread throughout the lower Midwest, Southwest and Western United States - was the worst in a millennium.

If the winter is unexpectedly wet, parts of the Golden State could finally emerge from the current drought.

"But there is no doubt that we are entering a new era where human-wrought changes to the climate system will become important for determining the severity of droughts and their consequences for coupled human and natural systems," said Anchukaitis.





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