Why El Nino Rain May not End California Drought

September 19, 2015

Above, I caught Kevin Trenberth in between sessions at a meeting last year, and asked him whether the then-predicted El Nino event would solve the west’s drought problem.
Below, Noah Diffenbaugh, no stranger to readers here, and Chris Field, discuss exactly this situation in the New York Times.

Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field in the NYTimes:

Two physical realities virtually ensure that Californians will still face drought, regardless of how this El Niño unfolds.

The first is that California has missed at least a year’s worth of precipitation, meaning that it would take an extraordinarily wet rainy season to single-handedly break the drought. Even if that happened, we would most likely suffer from too much water too fast, as occurred in the early 1980s and late 1990s, when El Niño delivered more rainfall than aquifers could absorb and reservoirs could store.

The second is that California is facing a new climate reality, in which extreme drought is more likely. The state’s water rights, infrastructure and management were designed for an old climate, one that no longer exists.

Our research has shown that global warming has doubled the odds of the warm, dry conditions that are intensifying and prolonging this drought, which now holds records not only for lowest precipitation and highest temperature, but also for the lowest spring snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in at least 500 years. These changing odds make it much more likely that similar conditions will occur again, exacerbating other stresses on agriculture, ecosystems and people.

At the same time, extreme wet periods may also increase because a warming atmosphere can carry a larger load of water vapor. In a possible preview, persistent El Niño conditions this year could force Californians to face both flooding and drought simultaneously. The more rainfall there is, the more water will be lost as runoff or river flow, increasing the risk of flooding and landslides. Add in the fact that the drought and wildfires have hardened the ground, and a paradox arises wherein the closer El Niño comes to delivering enough precipitation to break the drought this year, the greater the potential for those hazards.

Below, part of my interview from this past spring with Dr. Diffenbaugh.

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3 Responses to “Why El Nino Rain May not End California Drought”


  1. Burn, rinse, repeat – soil gone.

  2. johnturner12 Says:

    is a good article might help stop the water crisis in California, in my search I found an article as good or a little better about the drought in California and how it could stop the scourge, but also about world water war and H2O Dynamo https://www.patriotdirect.org/californias-drought-problem-a-problem-that-was-waiting-to-happen/


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