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California's Future Weather Will Alternate Between Drought and Atmospheric Rivers

A recent study funded in part by the Southwest CASC describes future changes in precipitation in California that will result in both wet and dry extremes. The paper was published in the scientific journal Nature and was recently highlighted by SFGATE.

Read the paper in Nature here and an article highlighting the paper by SFGATE here.

Researchers have found that a pattern of wet and dry extremes could become the norm for California, due to atmospheric rivers. Atmospheric rivers are narrow bands of concentrated water vapor in the atmosphere that carry heavy pulses of precipitation to the West Coast. The authors suggest that atmospheric rivers are the cause of California's increasingly extreme, yet infrequent bouts of precipitation. Based on projections of future climate, the authors found that while overall precipitation will remain the same over the long-term for California, it will fall in less frequent but more extreme bursts. Further, as temperatures warm, more precipitation from these events will fall as rain than snow, causing reductions in snowpack, a critical source of water during summer. Understanding these changes in precipitation as climate conditions change will be critical for the state’s water resource managers. Read the paper here. 

Additional articles highlighting this work have been published by the Times of San Diego, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, NBC 7 San Diego, and The Sacramento Bee.

The Southwest CASC, the Bureau of Reclamation, NOAA, NASA, and the California Department of Water Resources jointly funded the study.

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Spruce-covered mountains surround a dried-up lake.
Spruce-covered mountains surround a dried-up lake.