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Drought & Climate Change

As California heads into their fourth year of severe drought, the debate continues over what is causing the unprecedented lack of rain. Cited as the worst dry spell in 1,200 years, as many as 64 million people were affected by the droughts, according to NASA projections. The long term effect of the current drought will significantly impact agriculture, ecosystems and city water supplies.

Those linking the drought to climate change say greenhouse gases have facilitated the forming of the atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean, diverting needed storms that provide precipitation. The study was by scientists at Stanford University.

Predicting the future of droughts are scientists that say climate change will cause megadroughts in the future especially in the American Southwest and the Central Plains. Organizations released a report entitled “Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains” with contributors from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell.

Some experts are taking the view that natural cycles and warmer temperatures in the Pacific Ocean were ‘main drivers’ of drought conditions and but that the warmer ocean wasn’t necessarily linked to global warming. This was spelled out in the last report by NOAA in December 2014,  where they didn’t rule out overall impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Weather patterns are complicated, but there is growing evidence that global warming will impact both La Niña and El Niño to greater extremes. A paper recently published in the  journal Nature Climate Change used computer models to simulate increasing greenhouse gases that would alter ocean and land temperatures and wind patterns.

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