New research pinpoints the effects of climate change on the severe drought California is currently facing.
According to researchers who have looked into the matter, the California drought was bound to happen nonetheless as high pressure events occurring in the western Pacific Ocean have been constantly blocking storms from reaching California during the winter, the season when the state typically receives moisture.
Nonetheless, the devastating effects have been propped up by climate change, with the report of published in Geophysical Research Letters estimating that climate change influenced the severity of the drought by 15 to 20 percent.
As greenhouse gases have continuously been building up in the atmosphere over more than a century, the extreme drought witnessed now in California is likely not the last one the state will face. Dry spells, more often and more severe are expected to affect Californians ever further.
Park A. Williams, lead author of the report and climate scientist with the Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory stated:
“This would be a drought no matter what”,
referring to the natural climate variability. However, climate change is adding up to more acute effects.
Month after month this year have been labelled as the hottest on record. On Thursday, the NOAA also reported that global temperatures have reached a record, July being the hottest month on record since 1880.
Certainly, there is an extensive body of literature on how climate change affects such extreme events as drought. Yet, this paper is hailed to be one of the most comprehensive works due to the thorough analysis of almost all implications of factors such as wind speed, rainfall or temperature.
And while the paper adds to the body of scientific literature, the effects it describes are still being pushed aside in incredulity by certain political leaders, as being alarmist.
Nonetheless, U.S. President Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown could find a useful tool with this novel paper. Both political leaders have been long arguing that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions leading to global warming are playing a key role in the intensity of the drought.
One issue that scientists have been repeatedly bringing to the front relates to the high possibility that once rainfall or snowfall returns to California, albeit for a short period of time, public perception would indicate that everything is back to normal and a previously upheld lifestyle could be resumed.
That would be a great mistake, as scientific evidence pinpoints the fact that droughts such as this will occur in the near future without doubt. A lush lifestyle, unwittingly ignoring resources and the future spells more disastrous effects for communities across California.
The severe four-year drought has taken a heavy toll on the agricultural sector in California. Infrastructure and land is also in danger due to high volumes of groundwater being pumped out of the state’s aquifers.
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