Rain lingers over parts of California from big, slow-moving storm systems. But there is less of it here, with less rain.
That’s because of climate change. In the past, California has been drenched by heavy rainfall. For example, in 1985. This summer the state has received less than a half-inch of rain. That’s because of warming.
Climate scientists say a new study puts the state on track to avoid the worst droughts, by a little more than half a degree Fahrenheit.
The study from the University of California-Davis is the most extensive look at long-term climate change in California in the scientific literature.
It shows that the state is poised to avoid a third-of-an-inch of precipitation below normal, as much as half of the state has experienced a wet year this century, and the state’s average rainfall has fallen by about 22 percent since 1895.
“This year we’re going to have a dry spell, and even though the rains aren’t exactly at normal levels, we’re seeing some of the driest years ever recorded for California,” said lead author Andrew Freed, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UC Davis.
“There was a dry year in 1998 that’s probably remembered but this is going to come to be remembered as being the California dry year.”
The study, which was published on Monday in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres, is based on six different computer models. Freed and a team of researchers used another state, Washington, as a comparison that is experiencing greater climate warming. One of the models they used was called CCSM1.4.
The model is used by NASA and other agencies, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It contains the largest number of computer simulations ever completed in climate research.
“It’s the model that everybody uses, and therefore what you would expect is that the model is more likely to be right than the others that are running,” Freed said.
“And that was true here.”
Researchers used a different model called CMIP3, which contains about 2 million computer simulations. This model is used by the majority of climate scientists.