Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by roughly 15 to 20 percent, scientists said Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up, according to NY Times.
Even though the findings suggest that the drought is primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change. The odds of California suffering droughts at the far end of the scale, like the current one that began in 2012, have roughly doubled over the past century, they said.
“This would be a drought no matter what,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University and the lead author of a paper published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming.”
The paper echoes a growing body of research that has come to similar conclusions, but scientists not involved in the work described it as more thorough than any previous effort, because it analyzed nearly every possible combination of data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and other factors that could be influencing the severity of the drought. The research, said David B. Lobell, a Stanford University climate scientist, is “probably the best I’ve seen on this question.”
The paper provides fresh scientific support for political leaders, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who have cited human emissions and the resulting global warming as a substantial factor in the drought. They have been attacked for that stance by Republicans who question the science of climate change. Mr. Obama, in turn, has mocked the Republicans for attitudes he once described as reminiscent of the Flat Earth Society.
“We have a real challenge in California,” Mr. Brown said this month as he visited firefighters battling a blaze near Clear Lake that has burned thousands of acres. “Unlike the East, where climate change seems to be adding more storms, here in California and the Southwest it’s more dryness.”