Climate Change Impacts California Drought, Experts Say

Climate change continues to be a hot button issue among politicians, environmental activists, and concerned citizens. The climate change debate has become so heated, that a panel of judges in Britain has even come together to “outlaw” climate change denial.

Climate change is a particularly important subject in areas like California that are experiencing the brunt of climate change consequences, such as drought.

Experts seem to be on the same page about one thing; California’s drought may very well be due in part to climate change. According to the NY Times, California’s drought has been made worse by climate change and global warming. Scientists estimate that human emissions have led to global warming and have thus intensified the drought situation in California by 15 to 20%.

The current drought in California began in 2012, and the chance of severe droughts like this has nearly doubled over the past century due to climate change.

“It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming,” said A. Park Williams, a scientist and author with an expertise in climate change.

El Nino may bring more rain to California's drought

Will El Nino Help California’s Drought?

Although experts seem to be in agreement that climate change impacts drought, there seems to be some disparity in expert opinion about whether or not El Nino will positively impact California’s drought situation.

El Nino is simply a warming in the Pacific Ocean that impacts weather across the United States, but even more specifically in California. It’s estimated that the 2015 El Nino will bring more rain to the state, but experts don’t know if it will be enough. This year’s El Nino is thought to be the direct result of global warming and climate change.

Meteorologist Michelle Mead with the National Weather Service in Sacramento explained the situation when she said, “…If you look at the precipitation outlooks they do unfortunately still indicate that our temperatures are expected to remain in the above-average category. And we won’t know actually what our snow season is going to look like until we get into it.”

She added, “We’ve had six of them [El Nino] that have been in the strong category. And of those six, Northern California has also seen benefit with at least normal, if not above-normal precipitation, four out of those six events.”

In other words, although the rainfall from El Nino may bring additional rainfall throughout California, it likely won’t be enough to get the state out of its severe drought status.

If Climate Change is Inevitable, How Can People Help Improve California’s Drought?

Strict water conservation guidelines have already been implemented throughout the state of California, with some areas called to cut back nearly 35%. The daily water usage per person has also been given a per capita limit: 100 gallons, although many areas still double that number.

An expert in industrial water filtration cited conservation as a first step, with pipelines and water recycling as a backup option, “Of course, the ideal solution is for California residents to come together and take stock of the way they use water…to search for conservation solutions ahead of time and by conscious action.”

Some experts, such as A. Park Williams, a climate scientist from Columbia University, are optimistic that rains will return and the drought will inevitably end without Californian’s having to take drastic measures.

Regardless of the solution, one thing has become crystal clear: climate change is real and it’s causing very serious consequences around the globe, especially in places like California. How people choose to work together (or not work together) in conservation efforts will determine how well we’re able to cooperate in creating a sustainable future for tomorrow.

Is climate change impacting California's drought?

[Photo credits: WeatherWest.com and UnitedLiberty.org]

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