Rummaging through the new headlines this morning, I spotted this headline:
New normal’: Scientists predict less rain from here on out
This is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about a team of climate experts at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.
What’s gone wrong with the weather?
Ever since California began drying out four years ago, Noah Diffenbaugh and his crew of earth scientists at Stanford University have been working on that question. They’re on a mission, like detectives breaking down a psychological profile of a bad guy — only this hunt is done with calculators and computer models.
Their bad guy is the drought, one of the worst in California’s recorded history. And one of the most mysterious.
What’s most clearly known is this: A huge dome of stagnant air has spent much of the past four winters parked off the West Coast, driving the storm path far north of California. In years past, it would periodically slide south, letting in rain to the lowlands and snow to the mountains. Now, it hardly budges.
That’s where Diffenbaugh takes up the hunt. What has changed? Why did it change? And is that change permanent?
The bottom line is, drought conditions are the new normal according to the Stanford Team:
“California is in a new climate,” Diffenbaugh said. “And that’s a climate where droughts have already become much more likely, and will continue to be so in the coming years.”
The Stanford team claims to have studied climate history from 1895 to the present and then concluded that California problem was caused by — wait — Wait
The Stanford team projects this trend to continue from here on out — translating into what Diffenbaugh says is the “new normal,” a future filled with warm and dry years about half the time, instead of a quarter. A big culprit in all this, the team says: global warming.
However, not everyone agrees. According to NOAA:
California’s historic drought is the result of naturally changing ocean conditions, according to a new federal report that dismisses man-made climate change as the root cause.
“Climate change would not have been a main driver of the precipitation anomalies,” said Marty Hoerling, a co-author of the report and researcher at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.
I agree with NOAA, throughout history California has experienced long-term droughts, long before anthropogenic global warming was an issue. An issue that grows weaker and weaker as the global warming pause is now over 18 years long. If the planet was not warming for 18 years, what caused the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge? According to NOAA it was caused by natural climate cycles.
These natural cycles maybe creating a new normal for California and we will once again be subjected to a series of long term droughts, interspersed with some wet years, as predicted by the Stanford team. However, given this new insight, we had better be prepared to capture and store the rain and snow during those wet years.
Do you know if your legislator is working to increase our water collection infrastructure? If not, you had better let him or her know that we can expect over half of our future years to be dry, rather than the past when only a quarter were dry. It could be your shower that will run dry if we do not store more water.