California Drought: The Worst Yet To Come?


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If it's any comfort to Californian natives, scientists say that this drought, which has been going since fall of last year, is not the worst the state has seen. This even as it has been acknowledged that the current drought is the driest spell in the state's history since rainfall began to be recorded.

So the good news is that where droughts are concerned, it can always be worse. And therein lies the bad news as can get worse. Some scientists suspect that it will get worse at some point.

Scott Stine, professor of geography and environmental studies at CSU East Bay, is highly critical of the way Californians respond to periods of drought, behaving as if the worst at most could be several years.

"We're living in a dream world."

The reality is that the worst droughts don't just go on for years, they can go on for decades. These events are known as megadroughts.

The worst recorded megadroughts spanned 240 and 180 years respectively. Could a megadrought hit California? Scientists don't rule out the possibility.

Stine, who has studied tree stumps throughout the region to get an idea of rainfall throughout the years, says that California has been fortunate enough to have had a century of rainfall among the wettest in the past several thousand years.

Some argue that the megadrought is already occurring. Research scientist and oceanographer Bill Patzert, who is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, believes a megadrought hit the region in 2000. His proof is a negative Pacific decadal oscillation that is ongoing. This is something that has been linked to storm-blocking high pressure ridges.

One thing is for certain: This is the driest spell that has faced the state of California for a long time and farmers and ranchers are being impacted hard.

Whether there will be definite proof that the area is in the beginning stages of a megadrought remains to be seen. Though it's doubtful anyone wants to see it.

Image via Sarah Morris