Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock" — an estimate of how close humanity is to the apocalypse — remains at 100 seconds to zero for 2021. Eva Hambach / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

One hundred seconds to midnight. That's how close humanity is to the apocalypse, and it's as close as the world has ever been, according to Wednesday's annual announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group that has been running its "Doomsday Clock" since the early years of the nuclear age in 1947.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The 13th North Atlantic right whale calf with their mother off Wassaw Island, Georgia on Jan. 19, 2010. @GeorgiaWild, under NOAA permit #20556

North Atlantic right whales are in serious trouble, but there is hope. A total of 14 new calves of the extremely endangered species have been spotted this winter between Florida and North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients. Marko Geber / Getty Images

By Yoram Vodovotz and Michael Parkinson

The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived and overweight and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10% with diabetes and additional 35% with pre-diabetes. And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients.

Read More Show Less
Candles spell out, "Fight for 1 point 5" in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany on Dec. 11, 2020, in reference to 1.5°C of Earth's warming. The event was organized by the Fridays for Future climate movement. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Taking an unconventional approach to conduct the largest-ever poll on climate change, the United Nations' Development Program and the University of Oxford surveyed 1.2 million people across 50 countries from October to December of 2020 through ads distributed in mobile gaming apps.

Read More Show Less
A monarch butterfly is perched next to an adult caterpillar on a milkweed plant, the only plant the monarch will lay eggs on and the caterpillar will eat. Cathy Keifer / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

Fall used to be the time when millions of monarch butterflies in North America would journey upwards of 2,000 miles to warmer winter habitat.

Read More Show Less