Scientists: State drought likely to worsen

Stanford scientists say dry years and warm conditions likely to lead to severe drought

The likelihood of California experiencing more warm, dry years leading to severe drought is increasing, according to research by Stanford University scientists.

The study, which was published March 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that rising temperatures combined with dry years are likely compounding severe drought more than dry, cool years.

The research team, led by Stanford Professor Noah Diffenbaugh of the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, looked at California's weather data as far back as 120 years and the role of temperature and drought. The researchers found that the state's worst droughts historically occurred during the combination of warm and dry conditions.

"We've seen the effects of record heat on snow and soil moisture this year in California, and we know from this new research that climate change is increasing the probability of those warm and dry conditions occurring together," he told the Stanford Report last month.

In the past, California's temperatures came up dry and hot one quarter of the time, but in half of the past 20 decades, conditions have been warm and dry together, he noted.

Analyzing computer simulations of the state's precipitation and temperature levels throughout the 20th century with and without greenhouse gasses, human-created emissions were clearly implicated in the statewide warming and increased dry years. The probability of the two factors coinciding also increased significantly by the mid-21st century, according to their calculations.

"We found that essentially all years are likely to be warm -- or extremely warm -- in California by the middle of the 21st century," Daniel Swain, a graduate researcher and co-author, told Stanford Report.

The current four-year drought is also one of the longest periods in the historical record when the two conditions of dryness and heat collided, the researchers said.

Diffenbaugh noted the effects of such drought. He pointed to the unprecedented low snowpack this spring in an April 2 Q&A in the Stanford Report.

"This is the kind of extreme event that falls outside our historical experience. This is not only a low April 1 snowpack, but it is much lower than the previous record low," he said.

The record high temperatures currently being experienced this winter and spring combined with previous years of drought and the low snowpack mean the drought is likely to worsen this summer, Diffenbaugh noted.

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7 people like this
Posted by water saver
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 8, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Lets keep building more and more water guzzling high rises & high-density housing. That will surely ease the water drought threat. If the city council and state of california government officials don't see the hypocrisy of the recent mandatory cut back in water usage and the current excessive building trend, they all should be fired and get real decision makers who look after the well-being of all Californians. the way it is now, these officials seem to think that more tax revenue-whether it is massive new building projects, or an increase in tax over water usage restrictions will be the difference maker in the real threat to California--NO WATER!! Years ago, then governor brown vetoed almost any new damn project he could--now it is coming back to haunt. Full Circle--with no lessons learned by either Brown. Lets keep building--anything but new damns. And, by the way--the speed rail will save us all.

9 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 8, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

High-rises are not "water guzzling"- it's widely appreciated that folks in apartments don't have lawns to water and thus use significantly less water than those of us in single family homes with lawns. Using the drought as an excuse to fight environmentally sound infill development isn't very persuasive.

9 people like this
Posted by Ted
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2015 at 4:22 pm

This drought affects us all, homeowners, businesses, farmers. Yet what is our state doing other than rationing? Although high density, high rise apartments don't have lawns to water other than those around the buildings, they do house many, many people who do use and need water. Despite the drought, our state's politicians are eager to increase our population by encouraging illegal immigration.

California politicians have introduced a slew of bills to actually help illegal aliens get around our immigration laws – they must want to encourage even more illegal immigration. More immigration means more people using more and more precious resources, especially water.

I despair for California's future when I see our leaders dig us ever deeper into debt and drought. Where is our common sense?

8 people like this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2015 at 4:42 pm

What ever happened with Sharon Heights Country Club wanting to use Menlo Park's groundwater to water the private course?

Web Link

Shouldn't they be using grey water instead of potable water? As I understand it, that's what Holbrook Palmer Park does.

I'm not sure where this discussion ended up.

Like this comment
Posted by water saver 2
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 13, 2015 at 9:48 am

ok-- i get it high rise users dont use showers, toilets, sinks, wash clothes, wash dishes, cook with water, have indoor plants?? i guess you are right--high rise user dont use any water--all water is for outdoor purposes only-- curious if you are on the city council or are a contractor? the more people we crowd into limited spaces, the bigger problem our lack of water becomes.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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