California and the rest of the Southwest have been experiencing droughts since the nation's existence. The main difference today is that these droughts occur more frequently, last longer and wet days are scarce. The new dry weather pattern is thought by scientists to be directly related to global warming, and it is only expected to get worse.
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research have conducted a study which assessed weather patterns in the Southwest from the 1970s to today. The scientists discovered that the precipitation intensity in the Northwest and Midwest has experienced an overall increase in the number of wet days in those regions. In the Southwest, precipitation intensity leads to a decrease in rainy days. In fact, since 1979, precipitation has decreased by 25 percent in the Southwest region of the United States. Lead researcher Andreas Prein recently explained to USA Today that the Southwestern drought is directly related to to climate change.
"This is something we expect from global warming. We see that in observations. It's happening already. Droughts are occurring there more easily."
"It's important to be aware of what the climate is capable of, so that we can prepare for it."
"Understanding how changing weather pattern frequencies may impact total precipitation across the U.S. is particularly relevant to water resource managers as they contend with issues such as droughts and floods, and plan future infrastructure to store and disperse water."[Photo by George Rose/Getty Images]
The results of the NCAR study revealed something about the climate shift in the Southwest that previous studies did not find. What scientists are saying differently is that instead of droughts becoming a more common occurrence in the future, the future may be now.
Currently in the California, the four year drought is ongoing and it has been reported that over 90 percent of the state holds the status of severe drought conditions. Though the Pacific Institute reports that the severe conditions related to the drought are improving, it is only by a mere 1.6 percent, meaning most of the state still suffers. California is only one of states experiencing a mega-drought. These are the states also in an ongoing drought and the percentage of the state effected by drought conditions:
"This study is important as it connects the dots between long-term trends and changes in specific weather patterns that appear to be driving those trends."