With three years of drought, very little rain, and record periods of warmth, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Minnesota have come to a very disturbing conclusion: California is experiencing the worst drought in over a millennia. By examining oak tree-ring samples in Central and Southern California, specifically the patterns in these rings created in sufficient or low water levels, they were able to determine that the current drought in California is the worst in over 1200 years.
Its not the length of the dry spell alone that caused researchers to make this determination—after all, a three year dry patch is not uncommon for the lower US west coast. When paired with historically high temperatures, however, this “mega-drought” is simply unheard of.
“We were genuinely surprised at the result,” said Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota.
According to the paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, “the current short-term drought appears to be worse than any previous span of consecutive years of drought without reprieve.” To sum it up, its epic.
To help explain why California is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history, the obvious culprit, or at least active accomplice, is global warming. “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,” Kevin Anchukaitis, an assistant scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, explained.
Though few are willing to claim the recent rain, with predictions of more in the coming weeks, will be sufficient to end the drought, Californians remain hopeful.