Two recently published studies investigating past and future precipitation in California demonstrate that the state is experiencing an increasingly volatile precipitation regime, as rain-heavy winter storms known as “atmospheric rivers” become increasingly intense, and dry periods between storms grow longer.
This makes for more variability in water resources from year to year, with both droughts and floods becoming more likely as seen recently when historic drought was followed by a record wet year.
The research team behind the two studies includes Alexander Gershunov, a research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. He said that the combined results of these two papers provide “more nuanced” information about the changing climate of California than scientists had before. And it’s not all bad news.
“We expect to have a gradual change in the way precipitation is delivered that makes management of water resources and related issues more challenging,” Gershunov said, “But at least we are probably not running out of water in the long term. That’s the water delivery perspective. Increasing temperature, however, is a complicating factor that is converting snow to rain and increasing evaporation, while also increasing demand for water.”