California’s Climate Change-Induced Drought Is Worst In 1,200 Years (VIDEO)

Californians have been suffering through a severe drought since 2012. New research from scientists with the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has just revealed it’s the worst drought the region has seen in 1,200 years.

Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota, and Kevin Anchukaitis, an assistant scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution conducted the research.

They gathered tree-ring samples in southern and central California. Blue oak trees were used as they are highly sensitive to moisture fluctuations. They were able to reconstruct rainfall data back to the 13th century. Griffin explains the remarkable nature of blue oak trees to Science Daily,

“California’s old blue oaks are as close to nature’s rain gauges as we get,” says Griffin. “They thrive in some of California’s driest environments.”

The two scientists considered two additional resources when calculating the severity of the drought. They examined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) soil moisture variability index, the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). They also looked at a spatial tree-ring based reconstruction of drought, the North American Drought Atlas.

When Griffin and Anchukaitis concluded their research, they found that while California’s current episode of low precipitation is not unusual, the region has also been experiencing sustained record high temperatures. Together these two phenomena have resulted in the worst drought in the last 1,200 years.

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Why is California struggling through such an unusually harsh drought? Scientists at Stanford say climate change is playing an important role. Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, briefly summarizes their research,

“Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region – which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California – is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.”

Anchukaitis agrees and cautions,

“there is no doubt that we are entering a new era where human-wrought changes to the climate system will become important for determining the severity of droughts and their consequences for coupled human and natural systems.”

NBC News reports on one small California town living without water:

Stanford scientists explain the science behind California’s bitter drought: