People, Environment

California Making Speedy Drought Recovery

California may erase its water debt by the yearend.
California may erase its water debt by the yearend.

New research suggests California’s weather is defying the odds.

Meteorologists expected precipitation debts accrued during California’s historic drought to last decades, but a new analysis suggests the debts could be erased this year.

Between October 2011 and September 2015, California experienced its driest four-year spell since scientists began tracking precipitation totals in 1895. Multiyear droughts are rare, two-year recoveries are even rarer. The effects were supposed to be long-lasting, UPI reported.

“The odds of the state completely recovering from its extreme dryness within two years are estimated at less than 1%,” Eugene R. Wahl, a paleoclimatologist at the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, said in a news release.

“But, that may be what’s happening right now if very wet conditions continue into spring.”

Extreme El Nino conditions have buoyed rainfall totals during the last two years. As a result, the state’s drought recovery has been faster than 80% of the bounce backs from similar dry spells.

Though official precipitation records only date back to 1895, researchers can use paleoclimatic data from soil cores, rock samples and other geochemical signatures to track historic precipitation totals and droughts.

Research suggests the drought between 2011 and 2015 was especially historic for two of California’s climate regions, the San Joaquin Drainage and the South Coast Drainage. Scientists estimate the two climate divisions had not experienced a comparable four-year dry spell since at least 1571.

Models estimated the chance of the two regions recovering from such a spell in less than two years was effectively 0 percent.

The findings, detailed in the Journal of Climate, may force climate scientists to recalibrate prediction models as climate change increases the likelihood of both mega droughts and extreme precipitation.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints