Sunday, September 4, 2016

California Worst Drought Ever - Myth or Fact

Subtitle: Current Drought is Short and Not Severe Compared to Past

Update 9/5/2016:  Added the NOAA precipitation chart showing droughts. -- end update

One of the cornerstones of the present mantra in California government circles is that man-made global warming has created the current drought conditions.   In fact, language in some California laws and bills that may become law include such statements.  An example is given below.

The following quote is from a bill in the California legislature, SB 1161, from Section 2 paragraph 10.  The bill has the following over-the-top title, "California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016."  (this is nothing, really, as California about a decade ago passed a real whopper, the "California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.")

"(10) Climate change has been tied by scientists to the severity and intensity of the historically unprecedented and costly drought that California has been experiencing since 2011 that has resulted in communities running out of water, agricultural water cutbacks, and unprecedented groundwater use that has caused subsidence and a loss of storage capacity in the state’s critical aquifers."   (emphasis added)

It is unclear if the Legislature, in this case the California Senate, knows what they are talking about in terms of climate change, man-made global warming, and drought.   For example, the underlined section above mentions three things:

1  historically unprecedented drought
2  costly drought
3  that has existed since 2011. 

These claims are examined against the evidence, below. 

Figure 1, source:  USGS 
The link for Figure 1 is available here.   Figure 1 has a red bar added to indicate the runoff for water year 2016, still in progress until September 30, 2016.    

Point 1 - Historically Unprecedented Drought

It is a trick of statistics to use a running average (the gold line in Figure 1) that drops near the end as this does in 2014-2015.  As can be seen in the 1977 year, and also in 1923, the running average climbs back up when subsequent years are included.   

Another point that is evident from Figure 1 is that the drought from 1917 through 1933 was much longer in duration and much more severe than that of the past 4 years. 

Also, the eight years from 1986 through 1994 had only 2 years with more than 5 inches of runoff, compared to the current drought of 4 years. 

Figure 2 - California Precipitation 1919 - 1998, source NOAA
Also, from Figure 2 above, multi-year droughts are shown in red ovals for the 1930s, late 1940s, and late 1980s.  Another important point from NOAA's data is the long-term trend of precipitation is quite positive, at +5.6 inches per century over the period shown. 

I show this with the deliberate purpose of copying what climate scientists do when they want to deceive the public.  The data in Figure 2 starts in a drought and ends in a wet period, which forces the linear trend to be positive.   If one uses the entire record from 1890 to 2016, a slight negative trend is obtained.  

Thus, it can be seen that the first point is false, this drought since 2011 is certainly not an historically unprecedented drought.  In fact, this drought may already be over. 

Point 2 - Costly Drought

This current short-term and not very severe drought is costly only because the California population has grown over the years, and more importantly, the state water managers and policy makers have failed to provide adequate water storage.  This is much like a family of four, Mom and Dad plus two small children, sitting down at the table to eat a roast chicken.  There is plenty to go around.  But, when friends and neighbors are also seated around the table, one roast chicken is simply not enough.   I wrote on this earlier on SLB, the Us Four and No More article  see link.   The evidence is quite clear that California long-term goals are to limit population growth, and have population decline.  Limiting water availability is a sure way to accomplish that.

Meanwhile, there are substantial costs to those that run out of water and must pay dearly for imported water, sometimes by truck. 

Point 3 - Drought Has Existed Since 2011

As above, Figure 1 shows the current drought is minor and short compared to earlier droughts.  

Man-made Climate Change As Cause of Drought

The evidence is quite clear that any increase in CO2 in the atmosphere from man's consumption of fossil fuels could not have had any impact on the severe drought in the 1920s.   It is false to claim that today's minor drought is due to man-made CO2.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved. 

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