Quantcast

Is California's Drought Really Over? Scientists Say Not So Fast

Popular
Photo credit: California Department of Water Resources - Florence Low

The California government may have declared the drought over, but scientists say the land still has a lot of catching up to do. A new study has found that California's hardest hit areas will likely need several decades for their long-term average precipitation to recover back to normal levels.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that from 2011 to 2015, California experienced the driest four-year period in instrumental history, which dates back to 1895. It was the worst dry spell in 450 years with the Southern Central Valley and South Coast regions losing almost two full years of precipitation.

Unfortunately, even in these wet and blooming times for the state, the NOAA study calculated that it will take decades, even centuries, for the precipitation to recover in most areas. But, there might be a very tiny sliver of hope.

"The odds of the state completely recovering from its extreme dryness within two years are estimated at less than one percent," said Eugene R. Wahl, lead author of the study. "But, that may be what's happening right now if very wet conditions continue into spring."

Scientists are taken aback by the rapid recovery in some parts of the state, and believe it could have been jumpstarted by the extreme El Niño from 2015 to 2016. This event alone has already boosted the precipitation levels by 80 percent. But, the record breaking wetness will have to continue through the end of the year to truly ensure a full recovery.

A map showing the likelihood of recovery across the state. National Centers for Environmental Information

Even so, some parts of the state will recover more slowly than others. The Southeast Desert Basin division stands the best chance of recovering within two years, at about four percent. The San Joaquin Drainage and the South Coast Drainage divisions, however, have a zero percent chance of recovery within two years.

"These two regions include the agriculturally important Central Valley and the densely populated greater Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas," said Wahl. "So, the social and economic impacts are of particular importance there."

The other four climate regions hover between a .1 percent chance and 1.5 percent chance. So, it seems, one wet season will not be enough to bring the entire state back to life. Still, decades of recovery is better than a megadrought, which scientists still fear could happen with climate change raising temperatures in the region.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Artist's conception of solar islands in the open ocean. PNAS

Millions of solar panels clustered together to form an island could convert carbon dioxide in seawater into methanol, which can fuel airplanes and trucks, according to new research from Norway and Switzerland and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, PNAS, as NBC News reported. The floating islands could drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Read More Show Less
Marcos Alves / Moment Open / Getty Images

More than 40 percent of insects could go extinct globally in the next few decades. So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week OK the 'emergency' use of the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor on 13.9 million acres?

EcoWatch teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity via EcoWatch Live on Facebook to find out why. Environmental Health Director and Senior Attorney Lori Ann Burd explained how there is a loophole in the The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act under section 18, "that allows for entities and states to request emergency exemptions to spraying pesticides where they otherwise wouldn't be allowed to spray."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
View of downtown Miami, Florida from Hobie Island on Feb. 2, 2019. Michael Muraz / Flickr

The Democratic candidates for president descended upon Miami for a two-night debate on Wednesday and Thursday. Any candidate hoping to carry the state will have to make the climate crisis central to their campaign, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
A pumpjack in the Permian Basin. blake.thornberry / Flickr

By Sharon Kelly

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal featured a profile of Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, whose company is known among investors for its emphasis on drawing oil and gas from the Permian basin in Texas using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Craig K. Chandler

The federal government has available to it, should it choose to use them, a wide range of potential climate change management tools, going well beyond the traditional pollution control regulatory options. And, in some cases (not all), without new legislative authorization.

Read More Show Less
Denis Poroy / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Processed foods, in their many delicious forms, are an American favorite.

But new research shows that despite increasing evidence on just how unhealthy processed foods are, Americans have continued to eat the products at the same rate.

Read More Show Less

By Sarah Steffen

With a profound understanding of their environmental surroundings, indigenous communities around the world are often cited as being pivotal to tackling climate change.

Read More Show Less