Climate Change

California drought worst in the past millennium

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Science  06 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6222, pp. 624
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6222.624-a

The impact of drought on Lake Mead—pointer to California's future?

PHOTOS: © JOHN LOCHER/AP/CORBIS; © THOMAS MARENT/VISUALS UNLIMITED/CORBIS

Since 2012, California has been suffering a severe drought. Griffin and Anchukaitis use tree-ring records of past climate conditions to determine how the current drought compares to other droughts since 800 CE. Based on metrics for soil moisture and for precipitation, they conclude that 2014 was the worst single drought year in at least the past 1200 years, caused by very low (but not unprecedented) precipitation and record high temperatures. The 3-year period from 2012 to 2014 was the worst unbroken drought interval in the past millennium. Although the effects of climate change on rainfall patterns in California remain uncertain, higher temperatures may contribute to future droughts in the region.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/2014GL062433 (2014).

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