B50A9757net_cle413f5e-4b487 FROM THE FIELD
The 2015 Paris Climate Summit

The Human Contribution to the California Drought

by |December 7, 2015
Park Williams recent study looked at what percentage of the drought in California has been caused by human-induced climate change. Photo: calfire.ca.gov

Park Williams’ recent study looked at what percentage of the drought in California has been caused by human-induced climate change. Photo: calfire.ca.gov

The Science, Revisited

Park Williams, a bioclimatologist from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a California native, weighs in on the California drought and its connection to global warming in this past interview.

Park explains that this drought (like any drought) is primarily caused by climate variability. In this case, global warming has made the situation worse, because when things heat up, it increases the atmosphere’s ability to take water out of the environment. Park also goes into further detail about the nature of his work as a researcher and the importance of resilience when planning for future climate related changes.

“We know that there are many aspects of climate that will be unfamiliar to us, meaning that records will be broken in all kinds of things: rainfall, temperature, lake levels, stream flow, snow packs,” Park said. “None of these changes are going to occur all that gradually.

“Future extremes are going to occur more and more frequently. In planning, we don’t need to plan for the 2 degree warming that we are aiming for as a globe, we need to plan for the 10 degree increase in a day, or the year when there’s no water. We need to plan for worst-case scenarios. These scenarios may only occur once in the next century, but in many cases that’s all it takes.”

As the UN climate summit continues in Paris, we will continue posting past stories to help our readers understand climate science and its consequences.  Stay tuned for more climate related stories as the scientists at Lamont continue to keep a pulse on our planet.

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