A new study is placing the blame for California's catastrophic water situation squarely on climate change -- but why?
The California drought is getting worse, and a new study published this week is placing the blame on Global Warming.
The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, estimates that anywhere between 8 to 27 percent of the severity of the drought can be blamed on climate change, with it most likely being in the 15 to 20 percent range, according to a Christian Science Monitor report.
There has long been a connection in the scientific community between Global Warming and droughts, but this is the first time a study has attempted to estimate the effect in real numbers of the phenomenon. The study was performed by researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Park Williams, a bioclimatologist who is the lead author on the report, said that it’s not just the rainfall levels that matter when it comes to the drought, but also warming changes that reduce the baseline amount of water that is available, since more heat causes more evaporation.
The study went beyond California’s drought to examine the consequences in the next few decades of temperatures continuing to increase, causing moisture to be lost and keeping it away from the plants and the soil that need it.
Things are getting ugly in the Sunshine State, which is getting a little bit too much sunshine for its liking. Rivers are going dry, wildfires are breaking out, and there isn’t enough groundwater — a problem that is further causing the land itself to sink at a rate of two feet each year. Although the East Coast has been largely spared the effects of Global Warming, California is feeling its effects hard, according to the report.
To make their findings, researchers examined month-to-month data between 1901 and 2014, examining trends in precipitation, temperature, humidity, and also wind. They found that average temperatures have moved upward by about 2.5 degrees in the past 114 years, which is about what could be expected considering fossil fuel emissions over that time.
But none of those years can compare to last year, which was the worst drought season on record. It came as a direct result to rainfall plummeting in 2012 and the air drawing the moisture out of the surrounding environment, creating the awful drought conditions we see in the state today.