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THE CALIFORNIA DROUGH IS EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK

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THE CALIFORNIA DROUGH IS EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK

Post by Harry on Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:41 am

The California drought is even worse than you think

Zack Guzman | @ZGuz

20 Hours AgoCNBC.com



<p>California&#039;s drought drama and how we got here</p> <p>The historic California drought explained, and how some scientists forecast a mega-drought in the coming decades.</p>
From the half-million acres of parched and idle farmland to the swaths of receding reservoirs, the signs of California's historic drought are obvious.
Less obvious is just how historic the ongoing drought actually is when compared with previous dry spells in the Golden State's history.
A CNBC analysis of annual Palmer Drought Severity Index recordings, founded by meteorologist Wayne Palmer as a way to factor in both precipitation and temperature to track soil moisture, shows the nearly four-year drought is in fact the worst in over a century. The PDSI is used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as its main drought index. [url=http://twitter.com/share?url=http://cnb.cx/1CJCePj&text=California%27s drought is obvious, what might not be is that it%27s the worst in over 100](Tweet This)[/url]

PDSIHistory of Droughts in CaliforniaSource: West Wide Drought Tracker1902190819141920192619321938194419501956196219681974198019861992199820042010-5-2.502.557.5Highcharts.com
A PDSI recording of 0 reflects normal conditions, while -1 is considered to be the official drought threshold. Any recording of -4 and below signifies extreme drought.
Read MoreJob and revenue losses mount in parched California

Aiguo Dai, atmospheric and environmental sciences professor at the University of Albany, said PDSI paints a more complete picture than rainfall alone and does a better job of showing how bad things have actually gotten.
"California has been gradually warming over the last 30 years," he said. "It's an important part of the equation, because a warmer temperature means water evaporates more quickly, worsening the dryness from the precipitation deficit."
The current drought has averaged a reading of -3.67 over the last three years, nearly twice as bad as the second-driest stretch since 1900, which occurred in 1959. Ironically, that drought was battled by current Gov. Jerry Brown's father, Pat Brown. The former governor approved the California Water Project, a $1.8 billion initiative that directed water to Southern California and contributed to a boom in agriculture and population. Now his son faces an even more serious problem.
PDSIWorst California droughts over last 100yearsSource: West Wide Drought Tracker1923-19261928-19311946-19511959-19621987-19922012-2…-6-4-202Highcharts.com
Some experts contend that rising temperatures in and of themselves might skew PDSI numbers higher in recent years, but Dai disagrees, contending that such a large difference can't be attributed solely to that bias.
"I would think this is the worst drought because the bias would not account for that much of the difference," he said.
Other studies using PDSI data drawn from tree-ring observations reaching even further back in time reveal similar findings. One such study from University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researchers showed the current drought is California's worst in at least 1,200 years.
Read MoreWest Coast drought: Why California water is so cheap
California still has hope that a strengthening El Niño season, which correlates with more rain in the Golden State, will bring much-needed showers.

The chance that an El Niño continues through the winter of 2015-16 now stands at more than 90 percent, according to last week's updated estimates from the Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service that focuses on El Niño forecasts.
Any effects brought on by El Niño are likely to remain weak through the summer but should increase by late fall and winter, according to the CPC, and have an 80 percent chance of continuing on into the spring of 2016.


Zack GuzmanNews Associate

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