New Video: California Drought – Natural, Man Made, or Both?

March 13, 2014

I was asked weeks ago to do an update on the California drought situation – which seemed pretty straightforward at the time – but it turned into one of the most challenging assignments I’ve taken on.
Not only has the weather situation continued to morph, but the political dialogue heated up as well, when the President travelled to the state and mentioned climate as a contributor to the drought conditions.  Hysteria  ensued.

supportdarksnow

Aside from the predictable political fallout from this very critical, very visible, and potentially crippling weather event, there is a very real ongoing debate in the science community as to when an event can be attributed to climate change, and how much.
I spent a lot of time interviewing a range of scientists, both in and outside California, on the history of drought cycles in the state, as well as the effects of the slow but persistent signal of climate warming on that variable cycle.  Dr. Kathleen Johnson of UC Irvine shared with me her research on the central California paleo-climate, derived from cave geology.
One confounding factor is the exponential population growth that has occurred during an era when the state has been, historically speaking, relatively lush with water – a condition that the paleo-record warns, is temporary under the best scenario, as I was reminded by Dr. Bill Patzert and Dr. Tom Painter, both of NASA JPL.
But, even given that, it is impossible to ignore the emerging exploration in the science literature for possible changes in atmospheric dynamics that may be part of a warming climate.  We’ve become used to the cycles we know, such as El Nino/LaNina, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation – but as Dr. Richard Rood of the University of Michigan, and Dr. Aradhna Tripati of UCLA told me, there is no guarantee that these are set in stone.
Finally I talked to Dr. Jacob Sewall, whose computer modeling of a decade ago forecast that declines in arctic sea ice might mean future circulation  pattern eerily similar to the stubborn, “ridiculously resilient ridge” that has produced the spectacularly variable weather from the arctic, to North America, to Europe, this winter.

40 Responses to “New Video: California Drought – Natural, Man Made, or Both?”


  1. Nicely done video!


  2. CLIMAS COLLOQUIUM: JONATHAN OVERPECK – THE EMERGING NEW REALITY OF MEGADROUGHT RISK

    http://www.frequency.com/video/january-climas-colloquium-jonathan/148609640

    • rayduray Says:

      Terrific presentation. Dr. Overpeck had answers to questions I didn’t know I had. 🙂

      By far the best presentation on the Colorado River and Southwest drought I’ve come across in a long time. Thanks!

      Currently there are about 35 million people dependent upon the Colorado River system for at least some of their water. If the drought persists, there will be climate migrants from the region. I reflect back on John Wesley Powell’s thoughts on the matter. He’s the fellow who made the first (intentional) descent of the Grand Canyon by a USan circa 1870. His contention was that west of the 100th Meridian, the government ought to be discouraging settlement and homesteading due to a lack of rain. Of course we never followed that sage advice. Perhaps we’ll come to understand Powell’s point if a megadrought does ensue in the Southwest.

      In Powell’s own words: http://tinyurl.com/mhsl49n


  3. If you REALLY want to understand the drought in the west…….
    http://www.youtube.com/user/NWRIwater?feature=watch

    National Water Research Institute


  4. […] tackled this difficult topic with an excellent video and informative blog post. The blog post is here, and I’ve pasted the video […]

  5. rayduray Says:

    Today in History: The Great Blizzard of 1888

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Blizzard_of_1888

    This was definitely weather. Not climate. (Does this make me a climate denier?) 🙂

    • dumboldguy Says:

      It makes you someone who is off topic AGAIN. Why do you want to disrupt and distract us from the topic at hand? Why don’t you want to talk about the CA drought? Nearly 40 million people and a lot of our veggie farms live there.

      (and the same goes for your other comment here on solar energy in CA, which has next to no relevance to the drought)

      • rayduray Says:

        Smart people just ignore stuff they don’t care for. Instead of coming across like a small-minded nag.

        Think about it. Then let us ignore each other. I cast pearls before swine, and you play your part.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          I haven’t felt the need to practice much tele-psychiatry on Crock lately, since certain folks are behaving much better (or gone). But Ray is showing disturbing symptoms of narcissism and egomania here, so please forgive me—we need to help him.

          Ray has set himself up as the arbiter of what visitors to Crock should “care for”—-if HE wants to post it, then the rest of us should be grateful for it, even if it is OFF TOPIC and disruptive to the flow of discussion on the topic that PETER chose to spend time developing for us.

          If the topic is California Drought and Ray wants to inject the Blizzard of ’88, that is apparently his self-determined and inalienable right, and anyone who objects is “not smart” and a “small-minded nag”. I don’t want to come on Crock and waste time sorting through Ray’s distractions and deciding which ones to ignore. (Ray DOES post some good links, but usually in inappropriate places). I come here to learn from what Peter has dug up for us and the comments and supplementary info that others contribute. Many of us go off topic a bit at times (especially us old guys), but we don’t do it All.The.Freakin’.Time.

          I don’t need to think about it very much to see clearly that Peter is casting pearls before Ray, and that Ray is disrespectful of Peter and all us Crockers in the way he abuses our time and patience. I will “play my part” by reminding Ray of that as often as necessary. Otherwise, I WILL ignore Ray, except for the times I may pat him on the back for injecting something appropriate at an appropriate time on a thread, or for making an on-topic comment with which I agree. He has shown he IS capable of that kind of positive behavior, and the other side of his personality is disturbing.

          A case in point: Peter has taken down a recent page (Support our Troops) that I thought was one of his better posts of late. About how the Pentagon was recognizing climate change and factoring it into our strategic planning. A well-done piece with far-reaching implications. Ray responded to it with an off-topic political diatribe, I responded, Ray took it very badly, page is gone. We have now been deprived of a meaningful discussion. Too bad.

          • rayduray Says:

            This…

            http://www.salon.com/2014/03/08/35_countries_the_u_s_has_backed_international_crime_partner/

            …. is a meaningful discussion. One that you refuse to acknowledge.

            The military is a monstrous threat to the future of America and a stain on the decency of us all.

            ***
            Re: Ukraine — Paul Craig Roberts has it right. You can only poke the bear with your matchsticks for so long before you ignite something you can’t control. And when it does, you are going to be a crispy critter back in your D.C. litter:

            http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/06/looting-ukraine-begun/

            The military is, with the perfect idiocy of 1914 once again on display, leading us as idiots inexorably to the edge of war. This time it will be the last one fought with anything more that sticks and stones, if we act like jarheads. As Roberts chillingly concludes:

            ” … Washington will exploit the weakness to the point that Washington forces Putin to war.

            “The war will be nuclear.”

            And I will assure you, there will be no winners.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Dang, Ray is dissociating on us. RAY! Slow Down! Deep breaths!

            I don’t disagree all that much with anything you said. But this stuff is NOT appropriate to this drought thread or nearly any other thread appearing on a blog about CLIMATE CHANGE and CLIMATE CHANGE DENIAL.

            Take it over to the sites on the right wing blogosphere and join the circular firing squads and parrot brigades over there. I recommend Personal Liberty Digest, a libertarian site—-your “so far left you’re also right” mindset will be very popular there. They’ll alternate patting you on the back with calling you names, and some are so willfully and functionally illiterate that they’ll never figure you out. It’ll be fun for you.

            I go back to the beginnings of the cold war and “duck and cover” drills in the schools—-we didn’t have nuclear war then and we likely won’t now, so stop screaming “the end is near!”, ’cause I don’t want to repent just yet.

            (PS Don’t think I missed you clever “….if we act like jarheads”. FYI, it’s a sign of YOUR impotence to think you are scoring any points with that)

          • greenman3610 Says:

            I can’t find that page now myself, but I’ll be damned if I know what happened to it.
            If it doesn’t turn up I’ll repost this weekend.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Please do, and I hope all will look at it—-it’s one of your better editing efforts and really does offer a lot to think about. If the military says “worry about global warming”, can the rest of the military-industrial complex be far behind? And won’t that convince the fat cats to alter their thinking so that they can continue to suck up more $$$ and boost their bottom line?


          • Too bad. That sux. I did not detect the missing page. What disturbs me is rays all over the map mentality and off topic. Example, trial ballooning two propaganda pieces. One, a gas industry hack, the other a windbagger shill. Lately it’s unbalanced complaints about renewable subsidies. Silly when wind receives no PTC and oil is subsidized. I have noted before, as you, that some naively parrot Koch talking points. It’s no secret that Koch is busy using wedges. And yet conservatives overwhelmingly embrace solar as a means of choice to avoid utility monopoly domination. This point of strange bedfellows is not lost on me. Moon dreamers are sometimes as bad as Koch. I have met several EVers and some solar fans that do not believe AGW. And some of the most cogent, accurate, and pragmatic discussions have been observed from fairly conservative bloggers. There are nutcases, salesmen, carpetbaggers, and doomsayers over the full spectrum from Guy McPherson to Coleman. I am enjoying commenters on other blogs doing the work so much, that sometimes I copy comments and step back and let others view or explain why they differ. I, too, want a widened educational discussion free from off topic, and all the troll nonsense.

          • rayduray Says:

            dumboldguy,

            Here’s “Killiing Hope” by William Blum, a much better source than the Salon list for questionable (ahem) U.S. military adventures:

            http://williamblum.org/books/killing-hope

            ***
            Peter,

            I’d assumed the military piece was intentionally taken down. How odd that it simply vanished. Kinda reminds me of all those Latin American “Desaparecidos” our military was complicit in executing.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desaparecidos

          • dumboldguy Says:

            You have flat out lost touch with the reality of what I am saying

            Seek professional help, Ray. Soon. Do NOT self-medicate.

  6. rayduray Says:

    California Sets Solar Generation records. This will be really old news within weeks.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/11/3393451/california-solar-records/

    In brief: “Last week was a good week for solar energy in California, with the state setting back-to-back solar power records in two days.

    “Solar facilities produced 4,093 megawatts of power in California on Saturday March 8, a spike from the previous day’s record of 3,926 megawatts, according to the California Independent System Operator. That’s enough energy, ISO says, to power about 3 million homes. California’s generated solar power has more than doubled since June 2013 and more than quadrupled since 2012, according to the group. The record also means that on Saturday, 78 percent of the state’s 5,231 megawatts of installed solar was producing energy.”


  7. Excellent video Peter. Well done.


  8. […] I was asked weeks ago to do an update on the California drought situation – which seemed pretty straightforward at the time – but it turned into one of the most challenging assignments I've taken o…  […]


  9. […] Peter Sinclair (ClimateCrocks): I was asked weeks ago to do an update on the California drought situation – which seemed pretty straightforward at the time – but it turned into one of the most challenging assignments I’ve taken on. Not only has the weather situation continued to morph, but the political dialogue heated up as well, when the President travelled to the state and mentioned climate as a contributor to the drought conditions. Hysteria ensued. […]

  10. rayduray Says:

    Attn.: Christopher Arcus —

    I brought this to a new comment because the string above has run out of “reply” buttons.

    You wrote: “What disturbs me is rays all over the map mentality and off topic.”

    Why should it disturb you? Sometimes it seems to me that stirring the pot can be a lot of fun.

    And oftentimes what I am doing by posting items that are not entirely germane to whatever topic Peter has introduced as an item are done so deliberately in order to alert Peter, among others, to things that I’ve found interesting via my own independent research.

    Where is it stated in the rules for comments here that they have to slavishly follow whatever the topic is in Peter’s conversation starters? And isn’t this more of a conversation than a grad course test prep study session?

    Christopher, do me a favor. Take a look at Dr. Jeff Masters’ blog: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html

    Now go through some of the comments and tell me if this most lively, interesting and civil blog requires the commmentariat to only address the topic introduced by Dr. Masters? Of course not. And keep in mind this is one of the very most successful blog/comment communities on the Internet.

    Let me ask you, what have you got against success?

    Just kidding, of course.

    But seriously, if you think having a lively mind and a lot of interests is bad, well, then I really do feel sorry for you. What a dreary proposition it would be that rote adherence to a designated course of study is all you have to look forward to in life.

    ***
    Post-script: I’m also now recalling another Best of the Internet blog/comment combos. It’s Naked Capitalism:

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/

    Some of the off topic stuff there is absolutely superb. 🙂

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “Why should it disturb you? Sometimes it seems to me that stirring the pot can be a lot of fun”. A blatantly narcissistic comment, i.e, “I don’t care if it disturbs anyone, I will do what I want by stirring the pot with off-topics, and everyone else can lump it”

      “And oftentimes what I am doing by posting items that are not entirely germane to whatever topic Peter has introduced as an item are done so deliberately in order to alert Peter, among others, to things that I’ve found interesting via my own independent research”. Send Peter a private email, as I and many others do. Do you not see the “contact me” box on the Crocks page?

      “Where is it stated in the rules for comments here that they have to slavishly follow whatever the topic is in Peter’s conversation starters?” In Miss Manners and other etiquette columns perhaps?

      Just looked at several HUNDRED comments on wunderground, and ALL of them were about weather and climate and NONE were about politics and Ray-type off topics. We do have a “lively, interesting, and civil blog” here as well, and it can be better if you and a few others with personality issues stop playing games.

      “Let me ask you, what have you got against success? Just kidding, of course”.
      A joke that mirrors the reality of Tay’s narcissism—Ray sees HIMSELF as a successful role model for all Crockers—he is NOT talking about Masters’ success there, but his self-perceived own. I myself want to see Crock succeed, and Ray IMO is not helping.

      “But seriously, if you think having a lively mind and a lot of interests is bad, well, then I really do feel sorry for you. What a dreary proposition it would be that rote adherence to a designated course of study is all you have to look forward to in life”, says Ray.

      I will act in Christopher’s stead (and everyone else’s as well) and thank you for him (and us) for that gratuitous and mindless insult. I’ve got “a lively mind and a lot of interests”, as do the others who visit Crock, and you have just given more evidence of your narcissism by implying that we don’t.

      SBAN, Ray!

      • rayduray Says:

        LOL! That was a fun read.

        ***
        So, the other night Senator Whitehouse led the climate pillow party in the Senate chambers. Here’s some of the better one-liners:


        “I rise tonight in puzzlement as to how this issue became a partisan issue. It’s a scientific issue.” — Angus King (I-Maine)

        “It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis — the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress — have a valid point of view.” — Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

        “We do not have to accept the false choice of the environment versus the economy.” — Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

        “We are on the cusp of a climate crisis … a point of no return. We are in a moment of great danger and great opportunity. It is up to us.” — Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

        “So much of that CO2 is red, white, and blue.” — Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

        “I don’t want to bury my head in the tar sands.” — Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

        “Right now what we need is a Republican dance partner.” — Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)

        “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.” — Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

        “Lobsters are our modern-day canary in the coal mine.” — Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

        “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Ed Markey (D-Mass.), reading from The Lorax

        More: http://grist.org/news/who-had-the-best-one-liners-at-the-senates-climate-slumber-party/


    • I meant what I said. There is no reason to a feeling, it just is. Off topic is not enjoyable to other people, since they want to get the benefit of the topic. It is a matter of social courtesy. You are reasonably polite and courteous, you just need to keep the off topic to a dull roar. One other thing. I don’t recommend words like commentariat. They are inflammatory and add nothing to the discussion.


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