California’s governor Brown should read this paper about drought – maybe it will get his mind off the bullet train to nowhere and onto reservoirs

Severe drought no longer caused just by nature

UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

Scientists at the University of Birmingham are calling on drought researchers and managers around the world to consider both human activity and natural phenomena in their battle to preserve increasingly scarce global water supplies.

The experts say that severe droughts experienced recently in countries such as China, Brazil and the United States can no longer be seen as purely natural hazards. Changes to the way people use the water and the landscape contribute to extreme water shortages.

The University’s Water Science Research Group is leading key researchers from 13 organisations in eight countries to redefine how the world should study and tackle drought. The researchers propose broadening the definition of drought to include water shortage caused and made worse — or sometimes improved — by human activity.

Drought research should no longer view water availability as a solely natural, climate-imposed phenomenon and water use as simply a socio-economic issue. It should, instead, more carefully consider the complex interactions between nature and society.

The current California drought has severely affected the state’s environment and economy. Storing water in reservoirs and extracting groundwater increase evaporation and decrease groundwater levels, making the drought worse. It demonstrates how strongly water and society are intertwined during drought periods.

Europe suffered a severe drought last summer with high heat causing soils and plants to dry out helping to spread wildfires. Agricultural and hydropower production decreased, whilst rivers fell to record low levels and inland water transport shut down in some places. Water and drought policies vary across the EU and more work is needed to understand their influence on drought.

University of Birmingham Water Science Lecturer Dr Anne Van Loon said: “Society is not a passive victim of drought; it responds to water shortages and these responses again influence water levels in reservoirs, aquifers and rivers. Severe droughts in human-dominated environments, as experienced in recent years in China, Brazil and the USA, cannot be seen as purely natural hazards because human activities play a role.

“Managing drought effectively means we must acknowledge that human influence is as integral to drought as natural climate variability. This is why we’re calling for research to explicitly consider the multidirectional relationship between natural drought processes and the role of people.”

Recent research has focussed on natural areas, such as the effects of climate change on drought under natural conditions. However, the validity of these studies is questionable if our world is strongly altered and managed by people.

“The traditional approach to drought research — focussing on natural phenomena — leads to poor prediction and management of this complex interdisciplinary phenomenon. The complexity of the issue and lack of data and information make it hard, but that is no reason to pretend that the water system is completely natural and we can ignore water use by people in quantifying drought.”

Dr Van Loon added that in California, one of the big questions is how much rain is needed to end the drought. It was particularly important to take into account human activity, such as groundwater abstraction and water transfers, when calculating how much rain is needed.

“We can see the water system as a bucket of water half-empty due to drought, which needs to be filled up to its original level,” she said. “We can calculate how much rain is needed to fill up the bucket, but at the same time we are constantly taking water out of the bucket and putting water in.”

The water science researchers say that defining the causes of drought is crucial in deciding whether management should focus on making changes to cope with climate-induced drought (adaptation) or tackling the actions that lead to human-induced drought (mitigation).

Innovative scientific methodology is needed to pull apart different causes of drought. Research should also analyse the impacts of drought on society, how society responds to water shortages and the effect of these responses on drought.

Direct effects of people on drought are water abstraction, reservoir building and water transfer. Indirect effects are changes to the land surface made by people that can affect the development of drought by altering hydrological processes. These can include evaporation from land to air (evapotranspiration) and the rate at which water penetrates the soil (infiltration), as well as surface runoff and storage of water.

These direct and indirect influences can be long-term (big engineering projects for reservoirs or gradual urbanisation) and short-term (more efficient irrigation methods, different crops). Short term adaptation to drought can decrease the severity of the next drought or even cause within drought changes influencing the drought end.

A better understanding of how public perception of drought and strategies to tackle climate-induced factors is also needed. Large drought impact databases currently being compiled for the US and Europe, together with improved data analysis methods should help in this area.

“Whilst human activity can contribute to worsening drought, society can also play its part in tackling water shortages. However, we can only begin to take positive global action against drought when evaluating the relationship between nature and people and its impact,” said Dr Van Loon.

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98 thoughts on “California’s governor Brown should read this paper about drought – maybe it will get his mind off the bullet train to nowhere and onto reservoirs

      • Who is the Supreme Arbiter of that white space on the map, that “Near Normal” and can anyone articulate how that normal was derived and why it is irrefutable?
        Someone hypothesized that once upon a time the Grand Canyon was at the bottom of the Ocean that would mean that this map is wrong as that same geography would now be considered an “Extremely Severe” Drought.

    • I see where I live, in Laramie, Wyoming, is in extreme drought, but there is better than a foot of snow around my house and about 30 inches along my driveway and walks where I have had to shovel constantly. The local ski area has a 46 inch base, and people who have skied well into the Medicine Bow Mountains tell me there is a universe of snow up there. I am betting we will have flooding on the Laramie River this spring. Note all the areas of extreme moisture adjacent to extreme drought at state lines.

      • Yes, I saw that too. Also, if I am not mistaken, the playas along I-80 looked pretty wet this last spring and summer. Not sure what to think.

      • I live in west central Colorado, where it is allegedly “Extremely Moist”, while you are in “Extreme Drought”. These areas are adjacent and conveniently follow the state lines. They are claiming an 8″ delta between the two areas where 12″-18″ is normal for the year. Since the water year begins October 1st, that chart represents only four months, making their claims even more unlikely. I record precipitation, and have received 7.90″ since 10/1. I grabbed the data for a station 1.8 miles ENE of Laramie, and it had 4.09″, only half the alleged difference.

    • I noticed your NOAA map has abrupt precipitation changes that miraculously follow the border of some states. Wyoming is drought but surrounded at the border by the sacred green. Another example is the segue between California and northern Nevada. That map is not to be trusted.

      • perhaps the issue lies not with the data, but our understanding of how the data is portrayed.
        I have done environmental/geographic mapping and how one presents the data playes a huge role. In this case, the data is clearly being ‘averaged’ against surveyed constructs (general aggregation of counties/man-made boundaries). So yes, one area abutting another can look very different.

        this ‘mapping approach’ does not capture gradations which clearly occur.

        further, not sure there’s a deployed system of collecting the data that would spatially support (reasonable spatial distribution) the idea that we could get a true representation of average data. Most often those data collection points are placed where convenient versus any real attempt to scientifically/statistically cover the areas. then the data is massaged to try and account for the non-uniformly spatially collected data.

        on a more simple share: growing up in western KS farm land, folks there well understand that precipitation events can be extremely local. To the extent that on one side or the road (good old dirt roads) one field gets half an inch, on the other side, that field may get nothing. On average, however, for the county, it received 1/4 inch.

        nothing there to help the guy who needed the rain.

        Precipitation, weather events are LOCAL events. Trying to apply point data to describe wide areas is not necessarily the best approach.

    • Southwest Florida is usually pretty much bone dry this time of year. Right now we are all but flooded, with just about every retention pond and lake in the region far above even rainy season levels, and every roadside swale and ditch awash.
      And yet this map shows near normal conditions.
      In case anyone wonders why i am so sure, it is because I work in the lake and wetlands management industry (14 years now), and spend every work day visiting ponds and lakes.
      These maps are a mystery, and I have no idea why or how often they contain such obviously inaccurate information…but they do.

  1. So what should have always been the goal of California Water Resources bureaucrats (To understand that California has an overall arid climate susceptible to periodic drought and prepare water storage appropriately) remains the same? After decades of neglect maybe they can get around to doing their job!

    • “California Water Resources bureaucrats … maybe they can get around to doing their job!”

      Are you aware that in California it may be illegal for any bureaucrat to do their job. They can only do three things 1) Call public hearings, 2) Petition the legislature for more resources, 3) Give annual pay raises to any member of a public employees union. Beyond that they have a statutory responsibility to sit on their hands.

      • +1
        Apply to Eurocrats . . . . .

        Auto – in serious mode, today.
        We’re having a referendum on the Eurocrats. Next week if the fat-faced one has his way.
        No more off-thread here . . .

    • Why start now? (doing their job that is). Their neglect is the only reason the ‘drought’ isn’t worse.

  2. This is not a mystery – agriculture uses 80% of water in California. Shortage of water is the inevitable consequence of over exploitation.

    • You’re not quite right with that figure. 40% of our water is controlled by the Feds (by law as of 2007), and is used to keep deltas filled for smelt, and rivers high enough to hopefully attract salmon someday. Agriculture uses 80% of the remaining water, with 20% for drinking, lawns, etc.

      • Terry: I think there are also an important misconceptions about how “wild” historical California waterways where. I was raised on the banks of Uvas Creek which is a tributary of the Salinas River and there were Steelhead trout there not a single Salmon. Salmon were in the Ocean offshore as part of the vast schools that spawned from very north of San Francisco, the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. The vast majority of sport and commercial salmon fishery was Oceanic When I attended San Jose State University there was a regular whoopla over the discovery of a couple of Chinook in the Guadalupe River in the 1960’s.(That river runs through downtown San Jose on an intermittent basis) The Guadalupe used to empty itself into the wetlands surrounding Alviso (what is today northern San Jose) The stench of which, at low tide with the right breeze, permeated most of “Silicon Valley”. A bit further North on the East side of the bay were the Leslie Salt evaporation ponds which forever filled me with mirth when somebody insisted that sea salt was something different than table salt.

      • Even the salt from mines underground is evaporated seawater from long ago.
        As far as I know all salt deposits are sea salt. Some may have been inland seas.

    • We also have a governor who has welcomed over 10 million illegal immigrants but now is asking Californians why they are using much more water now than was projected for 2015 20 years ago.

      The man truly has no clue.

    • 80%? Only 20% makes it to the ocean? What do people drink out there?
      Last I heard Kool-Aid still requires water.

    • Damn food growers and their evil food growing ways!
      Just think of all of those valuable and necessary parched lawns!
      Cry, cry for the grasses.
      Bermuda, I hardly knew ya.

      • Yes but mispricing water is the problem.

        20M3 of water required per Strawberry punnet is the usage and in San Fran they value that at $3/M3 so those farmers should sell their water to other people and enjoy sitting under a tree. everyone better of.

  3. I wish I had counted how many times as I read that article that I mentally said “well DUH!” It was a significant number. I can’t believe that this group of scientists felt the need to “call on” other scientists around the world to consider these issues. Either they are a pompous little shop or all the other drought scientists are in a room somewhere playing X box.

    • I totally agree.
      This is not new, the Victorian Engineers had this sussed over 100 years ago, in fact I expect the Romans had more idea than the Californians.
      They live in a desert, they have had massively increases in population and farming and wonder why they have run out of water when they have not increased the supply to match demand.

      Why they think it takes “Scientists” to explain this I just don’t know, except of course modern scientists don’t do “history”.

    • To a rational person, it’s just stating the obvious, but to today’s post-modern scientists it’s a wake-up call – hey these are the things that matter!

  4. researchers and managers around the world to consider both human activity and natural phenomena in their battle to preserve increasingly scarce global water supplies.

    Outside the desert belts there is no scarce water supply. There is only our ‘green’ unwillingness to capture what we have available. Try the idea of British Government ministers refusing to allow the building of new Reservoirs. Yes Britain could be a drought stricken desert while we deal with floods. You just couldn’t make it up.

    Let’s face it. If we were ‘suffering’ from global warming then one of the first signs would be more water falling from the sky. It’s called increased evaporation from the surface. This is, of course, where the bed wetters start to face reality. Can’t have have drought where there is increased evaporation due to global warming.

  5. “Water management” in California is an oxymoron. Adding reservoirs is only necessary if Ca keeps increasing its’ people and agriculture…..which it will. Increased use of natural resources is another unintended consequence of the open border, sanctuary state, and “everyone is a citizen of California” attitude.

    • Maybe if California got rid of a couple 10’s of thousands of those ” illegal aliens ” they wouldn’t need quite so much water !

      • Better to throw out all the thousands of paparazzi and other celebrity sycophants. Compared to the Kardashians, the immigrants might be doing some useful work.

      • The immigrants actually do useful work, now if you could just make the right on California Greens (who drive Humvees and Lamborghinis) vanish that would be progress.

      • Useful work that people who are legal would be doing, at one price or another (likely “another”), if it was not done by illegals.
        Yes, I said it. Illegals.
        ILLEGALS!
        (No need for quotation marks…people in the country illegally are illegals, AKA criminals.)
        Where do I get the nerve, telling truths and what not?

      • Marcus commented: “…Maybe if California got rid of a couple 10’s of thousands of those ” illegal aliens ” they wouldn’t need quite so much water !….”

        It’s more like “millions”. Unfortunately the people in Ca on welfare make more money in their current situation and there would be no one to do the necessary labor. Welcome to Socialism.

  6. Use one of the satellite map features like Google maps or Bing maps and zoom in on areas East of the Rocky Mts. like Eastern Co,Western KS, etc. The Great Plains, You will find areas that are green in the middle of a desert. Thousands of round center pivot irrigation sites. Not just a couple hundred acres but many square miles of desert that is now green. Surely this has an effect on natural water runoff, ground water levels and the depletion of The Ogallala Aquifer. Surely the amount pumped out of the Ogallala Aquifer is a large portion of the increase in the sea level increase. What else dos this do?

    • usurbrain

      Surely this has an effect on natural water runoff, ground water levels and the depletion of The Ogallala Aquifer. Surely the amount pumped out of the Ogallala Aquifer is a large portion of the increase in the sea level increase. What else dos this do?

      The water “lost” and evaporated and diverted away from the Aral Sea due to USSR (and now Muslim state) into cotton crop irrigation for cash to the government had also to go to evaporation/transpiration then into other watersheds and the sea.

      A “lot” of volume? No. But! if you measure it in terms of icebergs the size of Manhattan … Olympic swimming pools, is of course, the “official” CAGW metric for large amounts of water heated by Hiroshima sized units of political hot air.

    • Usurbrain,

      I grew up on a farm in NW Nebraska. We irrigated crops using flood irrigation from a dam on the Niobrara river. The same land is now irrigated using center pivots. The wells that supply the water are monitored (my father also dammed a small valley to catch water which can then be pumped out through the pivots). The farmers in that area are limited in how much water they can pump from the aquifer. They are allowed to vary the amounts over a five year period, but the average must be within established limits (some years the fields are used for corn, other years for beans, other years for wheat).

      Over the last 20 years or so, the amount of land under irrigation in Nebraska has almost doubled, but the amount of water used is the same. This is due to a new well moratorium and design changes in how the pivots spray out the water (drop down nozzles vice high level sprays). My brother-in-law uses moisture monitors to determine whether to run the pivots (he can log in on his computer and see which fields need moisture, then start or stop his pivots as necessary to keep the fields at the optimum moisture levels).

      He also uses GPS when planting and harvesting to determine which part of the fields need fertilizer, and uses the minimum amounts (that stuff is expensive).

      • Hey, it may not occur to everyone who sees them, but those center pivot gizmos are pretty high tech, are they not? It must take some doing to have an even amount of water fall on the whole circle, when the outer edge of the device moves many times faster and covers a far larger area than the inner parts of the boom.
        And the amount of variance must vary itself, according to the variance in TDH, no?

      • It is my understanding that the Ogallala Aquifer is still being depleted. I live in Nebraska and am aware of what they are doing to minimisethis. However, look at this satellite image of square miles of center pivits and explain how dumping all of that water on the dry desert is better than planting in areas other than desert land away from the western portions of the Great Plains and the deserts of California? Areas that are naturally hydrated and receive sufficient rainfall seem like a better choice to me, thus preventing the creation of salt saturated soil after 50 to 100 years of non natural hydration.

        https://www.google.com/maps/@37.5699984,-105.9804845,118201m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

  7. I agree with most of this paper, but withdrawing water from underground storage is a way of coping with drought that can keep local economies intact. What is the point of making water inventories that include ground water when “experts” can only see the downside of using that resource, and lecture that it ought not to be used?

    Storing water underground, rather than on the surface can greatly reduce losses due evaporation. Unfortunately water law in some states does not recognize recharge of underground reservoirs as a beneficial use of surface water. We need new thinking about this resource.

    With regard to how long it takes to replace storage, I can say that a drought in Utah in 1976-1977 when I lived there had lowered water in reservoirs so severely that experts said it would take a decade to replace. In fact, by spring 1978 they were releasing water to prevent topping of dams. By 1983 the Great Salt Lake was expanding and threatening the airport at Slat Lake City. Things can turn around quite quickly.

    • There are other ways to reduce evaporation from surface reservoirs, such as applying covers, and passive cooling methods, aeration, etc.
      This is commonly done even in areas that are not dry deserts with perennially low RH.

      [All such covers require fossil fuels, fossil-based energy and infrastructure, and fossil-based materials. .mod]

      • ” All such covers require fossil fuels, fossil-based energy and infrastructure, and fossil-based materials.”
        Doh!
        Oh, wait…I mean “Woo Hoo!”

      • Each of your suggestions opens a new mixed bag of issues.

        Covers limits gas exchange and favors fungal growth. The floating balls were a nightmare.

        Aeration to reduce evaporation? So you saturate the vapor inside a bubble and send it to the surface? Try aerating a glass of water and have a control sitting beside it and see which evaporates first. I grant a eutrophic or sharply thermoclined lake can be improved by aeration, and can also limit “turnover” water quality issues, but it will only hasten evaporation.

      • Aeration will mix and thus cool a large body of water, and thus cool it, especially at the surface. Unaerated ponds and lakes undergo thermal stratification that traps the cold water at depth and lets warmer water stay at the top. Warmer water evaporates faster.
        Aeration does not work by the actual rising bubbles adding oxygen, it works by promoting vertical mixing which eliminates thermal stratification, and by bringing bottom water up to the top, the atmosphere adds oxygen and removes toxic gasses.
        A glass of water is not analogous.
        I know these things because my company manufactures services and installs, among other things, lake aeration systems. We have University labs which conduct research, we do case studies all over the world, and have a lot of data to back up the benefits.

  8. ” Storing water in reservoirs and extracting groundwater increase evaporation and decrease groundwater levels, making the drought worse.”

    It is irresponsible to make a dismissive remark about water storage. I like the article and overall it makes sense. But the engineer in me says if you have stored water that otherwise would have mainly emptied into the sea, you will have on hand more water than you otherwise would. I fully accept that we can’t just stop the water and deprive downstream requirements by the environment, or draw water, as the Chinese did and wound up with dry patches and little ponds on the bottom of what was the mighty Yangtze R. near the mouth.

    But how’s this for engineered water storage: drill recharge holes down to aquifers capped with thick large gravel and sand filter ingress to the wells, divert a calculated amount of water using weirs at selected water levels into the aquifer recharge reservoir. Interrupt the recharge as required to ensure adequate stream flows. I suspect that many of the streams in southern Calif. were historically intermittent anyway and in some cases we are agonizing over ecologies that adopted the manmade availabilties of water. Also, the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego have storm sewers and they must know the volumes of water discharged directly into the sea from these. This water could be collected and pumped to a nearby water storage facility so that it could be reused.

    I like the paper but they should be aware that a simple dismissal of water storage as a negative might have been modified had they consulted the engineering department of the University of Birmingham.

    • Well said. It’s a good idea whose time has come. It will be interesting to see how state legislatures battle it out to determine which rivers are tapped, how high upstream, and which aquifers receive the surplus (and where it is injected). All of these will be contentious issues. For example, last summer, for the first time in Colorado, our antiquated “prior appropriations” conventions, set up in the 1800’s in Colorado, were modified to allow Coloradans to collect the rainwater from off their own roofs – into 100-gallon rain barrels. Until now, harvesting your own water was proscribed because it infringed on the established “prior” claims of users downstream from the river into which my rainwater might have drained. Colorado now joins (virtually all) the other enlightened states which allowed harvesting. The difference it will make?

      A quick estimate: my own lawn has about 16 sprinkler heads, each of which delivers about 3 gallons per minute, and each is run about 20 minutes, twice a week, during the dry months of June, July, August, September.

      I would need about 10 of those barrels to water my lawn on any one day. It’s a nice gesture, and overdue, but I have to wonder whether the re-assignment of millions of acre feet from mountain rivers into lowland aquifers will involve serious lawyering and even some old-West “gunplay”.

      Thanks for the comment. It represents one of those really useful adaptations to changing climate that we always talk about on WUWT.

    • I agree, and now is the time to recharge aquifers while the reservoirs are filling and before and during the run off. They should able to control that with your precautions in place re down stream viability.

    • Excellent comment Gary. I try to harp on this whenever I get a chance.
      There is no shortage of water, only an uneven distribution over space and time.
      Storage, and also transport, is an age old solution that is woefully underutilized in our time.
      The idea of rapid infiltration basins is a great one, but even places that have them, underuse the idea.
      Florida is fortunate to have aquifers that are blessed with the ability to allow rapid infiltration and recharge all by themselves, due to many factors, not the least of which is our highly porous soil. But even here there are clay hardpan and other layers that are relatively impermeable and inhibit recharge.
      Analogous situations exist in most places, and a properly planned and engineered structure can overcome this limitation.
      Central Florida has some such rapid infiltration/rapid recharge basins which have been in place for many years, but new ones are nearly impossible to put in place, due to concerns over allowing pollutants to inadvertently be introduced into the ground, where they would be very difficult to remove. But the answer is better planning and technology, not obstructionist EPA regulations, which is what we have.
      Filtering and cleaning water is not rocket science, and it is for sure that we will never stop needing large amounts of clean usable water.
      To let it run unused to the sea during times of oversupply/flooding is absolutely nucking futz.

    • Quote

      But how’s this for engineered water storage: drill recharge holes down to aquifers capped with thick large gravel and sand filter ingress to the wells,
      Unquote

      I have been saying that for years. In the UK days after droughts huge deluges flood the land and rush to the sea, yet they squeal about the shrinking London aquifer and using recycled sewerage. Just divert to aquifers, store and recharge in one go. Indeed the rock itself is a highly efficient and effective filter. Use fracking to engineer the recharge better.

      As far as i know it is only used in Perth, Australia

  9. The problem is that by conflating natural drought with that caused by poor water management, i.e. misuse of the resource, including building in areas prone to drought, the word drought becomes meaningless, similar to the word “climate”. This is of course useful for Climate Liars, and politicians, as it provides great cover for them.

    • Exactly! When there is rain, the politicians forget that it was ever dry- and when there is no rain, they look for whatever bogus, asinine reason they can find why it’s not their fault. The alternative would be to regulate draw from the aquifers until there is no rain. Might not align with the election cycle!

  10. At least the California drought is being replaced with a healthy recovery.
    It’s been wet………

    …….and the outlook is promising

    ..”all elements remain in place to bring above normal precipitation to California during the next few months”

    http://gacc.nifc.gov/oscc/predictive/outlooks/myfiles/assessment.pdf
    FEBRUARY THROUGH MAY 2016
    MONTHLY/SEASONAL OUTLOOK WEATHER DISCUSSION
    Highlights: 
    Above normal precipitation will continue in Central and Northern California. 
    Near normal precipitation in Southern California. Periods of unusually heavy late season rain is conceivable in April and possibly May as well.
    ” all elements remain in place to bring above normal precipitation to California during the next few months”.
    ” These storms should, in general, be capable of entraining significant amounts of moisture as higher than average amounts of precipitable water remains available across the Pacific. ”

    Among other years where Shasta routinely fills, in 2010-2011 Lake Shasta filled to capacity.
    82-83 is shown as the wettest, also filled to capacity.
    See Here: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/resDetailOrig.action?resid=SHA
    You can pick your years for display.

    Even after the deep drought of 2014-15 and starting the rain/snow year at near record low level,
    Shasta has already reached 75% of Historical Avg. For This Date

    With the continued California precipitation & snow pattern 2015-16 may fill reservoirs up again.

    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/products/swccond.pdf

    NORTH
    Data as of January 29, 2016
    Percent of normal for this date (%) 124
    CENTRAL
    Data as of January 29, 2016
    Percent of normal for this date (%) 115
    SOUTH
    Data as of January 29, 2016
    Percent of normal for this date (%) 93
    STATE
    Data as of January 29, 2016
    Percent of normal for this date (%) 111

    • January was good. But merely a proverbial drop in the bucket considering how drawn down we are. To break the drought we probably need a 200% of normal water year and even that might not do it. Looking at current sensible weather, we are highly unlikely to have a 200% of normal water year let alone even one greater than 100% of normal. Long term forecasts for Feb look sort of dry and adding insult to injury … drum roll …. offshore wind event #1 later this week.

      • I have to disagree, somewhat. It depends on what break a drought means.
        There is a big difference between breaking a drought and fully recovering from the effects of a deep drought.
        It not going to take 200% of normal precip to break the drought.
        As you can see here state official said back in December
        “State water resources officials said this week that it would take 150% of the average rainfall for California to recover from the current drought”
        http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-1204-rain-drought-20141205-story.html

        The state is well on it’s way to achieving that.
        http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/monthly_precip.php

        http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/awipsProducts/RNOWRKCLI.php

      • Today, on Monterey NWS discussion:

        OVERALL, RAINFALL AMOUNTS WILL REMAIN LIGHT WITH NO
        MEASURABLE PRECIPITATION EXPECTED SOUTH OF THE SAN JOSE REGION.
        HIGH PRESSURE WILL THEN BUILD ALONG THE WEST COAST FOR LATE WEEK
        AND INTO THE WEEKEND. THIS WILL RESULT IN DRY WEATHER CONDITIONS
        AND WARMING TEMPERATURES INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK.

        This does not square with:

        ‘Above normal precipitation will continue in Central and Northern California. 
        Near normal precipitation in Southern California. Periods of unusually heavy late season rain is conceivable in April and possibly May as well.
        ” all elements remain in place to bring above normal precipitation to California during the next few months”.
        ” These storms should, in general, be capable of entraining significant amounts of moisture as higher than average amounts of precipitable water remains available across the Pacific. ”’

        I suspect the second block of text must have been written some days ago, before the storm door started to shut. Turning our gaze to ENSO, the peak of SSTs was Nov, and we will be ENSO neutral a few weeks from now – Nino indices are falling fast. La Nina is prog’ed for later this year.

      • There are two months left in the normal wet season, and several atmospheric rivers have already emerged from the Pacific. To say it is highly unlikely for the drought to be broken enough to refill reservoirs is to ignore the history of how fast things have turned around in the past.

  11. The Palmer Drought Severity Index shows drought from regional waterfall, soil moisture content, streamflow (and other sources) in surveys going back as far as 1910.

    What’s clear from a quick scan of years since then is the oscillation between years of drought to years of moisture. It’s more patchwork than clockwork, but it suggests about 15 or so “cycles” have occurred since the year 1930. The link to El Nino and La Nina is not clear to me, but the cyclic nature is, especially in the West. Following long periods of dryness, regional moisture returns over the same areas for many months and sometimes years on end. So the “status quo” in most of the West, including California, is no status quo. Instead, low precipitation periods (“drought”) inevitably transition back through brown, yellow, then light green to green colors on the Palmer DS map. That is what California should expect to see this summer, as their lakes, reservoirs and stream-flow levels return to post-drought norms.

    Change is real the status quo for the West, and has been for millennia.

    Here’s North America in December of 2015 with California’s drought reflected in red.

    It’s notable that the drought for this year hardly compares to the bad years of the 1930s, say 1934:
    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/drought/historical-palmers/

    Another graph allows us to see all drought and “green” years since the 30’s at once:

    Such oscillations between wet and dry years are completely natural, with nothing man-made about them. Perhaps the Birmingham authors can suggest better technologies and growth management strategies for droughts and wet periods which are as to be expected – rather than encouraging the redefinition of drought to include the results of poor urban management.

  12. Did anyone visit Oregon last year? There was a drought on the coast, if not the entire state. I am in my 70s, and the last time I witnessed brown grass that severe (2015) on the Oregon Coast was in 1953, Springs were dry everywhere and the first 6-8 inches of large creeks and streams was so toasty, floating about on rafts was like being in the Caribbean. Eye witness is likely less scientific than taking temps, but it could be considered.

  13. Thou shalt not imply anything that diminishes the chances of Federal money over local money in the quest for budget response, comprende?

  14. Yeah, don’t capitalize governor for that weasel, but you might want to spell it correctly in the title.

    P!ssing it down here in the Bay Area most of the night (waking me up). How’s that man-made California drought going now Jerry? After the man-made California downpours, I’m really not sure what we Californians should be bracing ourselves against – a plague of fkin man-made tooth fairies maybe?

    Meanwhile Folsom Lake levels link:

    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/resDetailOrig.action?resid=FOL

    I follow this one because it’s easy driving distance and I can see with my own eyes in case it ever gets Gleicked.

    • And that site answered my next question:

      Data as of Midnight: February 01, 2016

      Current Storage: 545,444 AF
      56% of Total Capacity
      107% of Historical Avg. For This Date
      (Total Capacity: 977,000 AF)
      (Avg. Storage for Feb 01: 509,132 AF)

      It does compare this-date to average-values-this date.

  15. There are huge aquifers of usable water all over the world that are a little too deep for economic extraction now. Someday, when the bottom falls out of the wind energy scheme and they are no longer expected to contribute electricity to the grid, we could use these over sized windmills for their true purpose, to extract this deeper water.

    The Dakota Sandstone is one example:

    • Yes! You said it RW.
      In the Sahara desert, and deep under the Sahel, massive quantities of so-called fossil water exist in formations that are amenable to massive well yields, and yet these areas are mired in poverty due to seasonal and multiyear dry spells.
      CO2 fertilization has eased the severity of the problem somewhat, but underground resources are woefully underused in many areas.
      In case anyone is worried, they will easily refill the next time the Earth’s orbital parameters greens up the Sahara to a moist grassland and forest zone. Which happens on a regular basis.

  16. Drought managers should study a little history; for example:

    “BEGINNING about 1,100 years ago, what is now California baked in two droughts, the first lasting 220 years and the second 140 years. Each was much more intense than the mere six-year dry spells that afflict modern California from time to time, new studies of past climates show. The findings suggest, in fact, that relatively wet periods like the 20th century have been the exception rather than the rule in California for at least the last 3,500 years, and that mega-droughts are likely to recur.” Published: July 19, 1994

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/19/science/severe-ancient-droughts-a-warning-to-california.html?pagewanted=all

    • But acknowledging such facts would put the alarmists into a real panic, they’d rather pretend that humans can control these things with good intentions and hope.

  17. Draught is mostly local/regional, so why these Global Actions?
    “However, we can only begin to take positive global action against drought when evaluating the relationship between nature and people and its impact,” said Dr Van Loon.”
    Is it just because there must be some Global climate change and CO2 in every paper.
    I can’t imagine how Australia could make the draught in California less severe.

    • It’s a “globalist” paper, I am quite sure, as the language demonstrates and you noted, Svend . .

      “Scientists at the University of Birmingham are calling on drought researchers and managers around the world to consider both human activity and natural phenomena in their battle to preserve increasingly scarce global water supplies …”

      They WANT people to bitch about folks like Gov. Brown, to help them in their quest for global governance . . as the solution to the problem of inept and politicized local governance. They write;

      “The experts say that severe droughts experienced recently in countries such as China, Brazil and the United States can no longer be seen as purely natural hazards.”

      See? The experts say that . . the freakin’ experts !!

      This apparently pointless blither blather has a point; Continue the contrived outcry for global control of everything, in the name of saving us from our knuckle dragging myopic self interested selves.

      Problem, reaction, solution . .

      • Johnknight — “The experts say that severe droughts experienced recently in countries such as China, Brazil and the United States can no longer be seen as purely natural hazards.” — It is not true, see my publication on Brazil: Cimatic fluctuations and homogenization of northeast Brazil using precipitation data, Pesq. agropec. bras., Brasilia, 19:529-543, 1984. Fortaleza with an average precipitation of 1385 mm presented a 52 year cycle with sub-multiples [1849 to 1981]. Based on the amplitude and phase angles, the predicted pattern was superposed on the annual march of precipitation data against the mean. The predicted pattern was projected to beyond 2010. The below the average trend commenced around 2001 to will go up to 2019. The period between 2001 to 2010 more dry than 2010 to 2019.

        Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • It is pretty much axiomatic that when there is a rainfall deficit in one region, there is another region not too far away that is getting all that missing water.
      I do not think total yearly evaporation and precipitation varies all that much when the entire planet is considered.
      The idea of a “planetary drought” is ridiculous to anyone who studies maps such as the ones presented here.

  18. The chance of Gov. Brown getting his head out of his ass re the bullet train fiasco seem… Very Small. Can we say, “idee’ fixe’ ”

    Pity, since raising the dam heights on the big reservoirs, even temporarily with (eg) duckboards, would go a long way towards storing water that otherwise flows to the sea.

    Weird state, weird guy. Actually, on many issues, he’s not a bad governor. And, being from Arizona, I know all about Bad Governors….

  19. I realize that California’s runoff is probably a drop in the bucket, and I know that acidification is no more a threat than catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, but for people who are so afraid of ocean acidification, you’d think they’d want to prevent as much of California’s water from reaching the ocean as possible. Just sayin’ :)

  20. There are four types of droughts are in use, namely meteorological drought, hydrological drought, agriculture drought and technology drought. The [last] one is associated with the new mono crop based high chemical input technology — the so-called green revolution technology. Hydrological drought relates to catchment rainfall condition, insitu rainfall defines the meteorological drought. Agriculture drought relates to soil-water-crop.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  21. “Europe suffered a severe drought last summer with high heat causing soils and plants to dry out helping to spread wildfires.”

    What have they been smoking? Northern Europe had an exceptionally cool and wet summer (I know because I live there).

  22. Here is an *excellent* essay by Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, a native Californian, a grape farmer, college prof, rock-solid Conservative and author on why we in CA are in this mess. It gives a great history of our water project and how the Left sold us down the river (see what I did there?) for 30 pieces of Green Blob silver.

    A must read, especially for any from the East coast and “foriegners”.

    http://www.city-journal.org/2015/25_1_california-drought.html

    • That is a very good read.
      I drove the full length of the California central valley last summer and passed many farmer signs decrying how politicians took their water.
      What an era of madness, corruption and government run amok.

  23. Friends of Governor Brown plan to create two new cities in the south state, connected by the fast rail line. They need water for those cities and are establishing the legal system to take that water from Central Valley farmers that own those rights.
    Follow the money! And the taxpayers of the state will PAY vast billions into the pockets of these developers.
    Ecoloons and Federal Judges are just convenient tools…pg

  24. Very fast trains are a favourite of do-gooders fomented by people who would benefit from construction of them.

    Just as the waterfront tunnel in Seattle was supported by people like the steel mill which would benefit from the amount of reinforcing steel used in it.
    (Seattle has to replace the elevated expressway called the “Alaskan Way Viaduct” which takes highway 99 past downtown. They’ve been patching cracks, and IIRC it wouldn’t withstand the magnitude of earthquake likely to occur near there eventually.

    The Puget Sound is in an earthquake prone area, they’ve had a few about M4+ in the last few decades, some caused damage such as to brick buildings – one in Auburn WA, the fancy domed legislature building in Olympia, and the runway at Boeing Field. The viaduct is probably built on fill as the water edge of downtown was created by sluicing dirt from small hills behind it. Filled soil is vulnerable to liquifaction in an earthquake, Boing Field (aka King Country Airport) was built on fill in the area beside the Duwamish river.)

    One sucker worked for Southwest Airlines, who the fast train promoted in TX would be competition for. (Of course SWA uses publicly funded airports.)
    The sucker executive promised something like $400,000. to some aspect of the project, probably planning.
    When the cheque was presented to Herb Kelleher to sign, he asked why SWA should be helping that competition.
    When told that the sucker executive promised the money, Kelleher signed the check – because SWA honors its promises – but I’ll bet “coached” the executive.

  25. Now San Diego is facing an over-supply of treated water. According to Voice of San Diego (http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/san-diegos-oversupply-of-water-reaches-a-new-absurd-level/), they are trying to stop imports of water from other districts. In the meantime, they are dumping their excess treated water in the Lower Otay Reservoir. This was caused by locking in contracts for desalinated water. This was an undoubtedly wise move, but what with the mandates from Guv Moonbeam, they find they have more water than they are allowed to use. They have to practically throw it away – but not use it, or face penalties. Ah, I love government. Where else do you find such incredible stupidity without going to Copenhagen, Paris, Kyoto – or other places where climate scientists/politicians congregate periodically?

  26. I have not read all, or even most, of the comments yet, but I’m struck by the redefinition of drought. I smell the beginning of a new power grab and more arbitrary restrictions.

  27. Europe suffered a severe drought last summer with high heat causing soils and plants to dry out helping to spread wildfires. Agricultural and hydropower production decreased, whilst rivers fell to record low levels and inland water transport shut down in some places. Water and drought policies vary across the EU and more work is needed to understand their influence on drought.

    I live in Europe. well the UK.

    Maybe its senile decay, but I remember last summer as being particularly dismal, with plenty of rain. And no news from our friends ‘on the continent’ of anything unusual.

    I am beginning to wonder if all data these days is made up.

  28. And don’t forget the increased number of people: In the 1920s fewer than 2 billion, now on the way to 8 billion.

    • Right. Which also explains why events like the drying up of the Aral Sea is the result of mankind’s influence, not precipitation changes.

      Land-use change affects everything from evaporation to runoff to carbon storage to you name it. Why it gets such a small nod by the UN IPCC is beyond me.

      • Probably because climate change isnt really what the UN cares about. It ‘s not really concerned with stopping climate, it’s concerned wirh stopping capitalism and destroying the fossil fuel industry.

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