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Study: Climate change worsens California drought

A new study, published in the American Geophysical Union on Thursday said that climate change is partly responsible for California’s worsening drought. The study finds that California could face nearly permanent drought conditions by the second half of the century.drought-in-california-view

Researchers said that humans are responsible between 8% to 27% of the drought. John Abatzoglou, the University of Idaho climate researcher said that without heat-trapping greenhouse emissions causing temperatures to rise, the drought would have been 8% to 27% less severe than it is. The drought is worsening as the extra heat is drawing moisture out of plants and soil, leading to dryness. The study finds that the temperature is set to increase in California over the next few decades.

“A lot of people think that the amount of rain that falls out of the sky is the only thing that matters,” said lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Colombia University.

Researchers found that statewide average temperatures have been rising steadily — about 2.5 degrees in the 114 years the scientists studied. Williams and his team made their predictions, after they evaluated the drought and weather conditions at 23,955 locations throughout California. The team analyzed the temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation and solar radiation for each month over the last 120 years. The study has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

According to state firefighting agency CalFire, the drought caused by wildfires has charred more than 100,000 acres (more than twice the average) across California. It is also drying up wells and affecting the state’s agricultural economy. In another drought-related study by NASA on Wednesday, it was found that California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley is sinking at an alarming rate, nearly two inches per month in some locations. This is caused by the rampant pumping of water for irrigation as water supplies are running low. In the last four years, policymakers have enacted strict restrictions on municipal use and has forced farmers to fallow their fields.

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