Report cover. (Credit: NOAA)
Media Contact: John Ewald, 240-429-6127
Natural cycles, sea surface temperatures found to be main drivers in ongoing event
December 8, 2014
According to a new NOAA-sponsored study, natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns are the primary drivers behind California’s ongoing drought. A high pressure ridge off the West Coast (typical of historic droughts) prevailed for three winters, blocking important wet season storms, with ocean surface temperature patterns making such a ridge much more likely. Typically, the winter season in California provides the state with a majority of its annual snow and rainfall that replenish water supplies for communities and ecosystems.
Further studies on these oceanic conditions and their effect on California’s climate may lead to advances in drought early warning that can help water managers and major industries better prepare for lengthy dry spells in the future.
“It’s important to note that California’s drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state. In fact, multi-year droughts appear regularly in the state’s climate record, and it’s a safe bet that a similar event will happen again. Thus, preparedness is key,” said Richard Seager, report lead author and professor with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Continue reading