The Fifth Bad Thing: Drought

Ventura County, where I live in Southern California, has had a slew of natural disasters in the last couple of years. The White House declared a disaster for the floods of January 2005, after several months, and the state has declared a disaster as well, and also for the Day Fire of last September, and now for the most recent freeze. That’s not even mentioning the other disasters from the 90’s.

The recent disasters have been mostly spectacular; sliding hillsides, roaring fires, shrieking winds. (We had gales of 70 mph after Christmas.) But despite all the drama, a less spectacular but even more dangerous sort of disaster appears to be stalking us, as citrus grower Jim Coultas told The Ojai Valley News ($).

"There’s about five bad things that can happen to us," Coultas said. "Last year we had floods, then fire, then we had big winds, and now a terrible freeze. The last thing is drought, and it has rained only 1 inch in the last year."

His fears, unfortunately, appear well-placed. A recently released study by Marty Hoerling for the IPCC (the international climate change study organization) predicts a new era of drought in the 21st century:


The Southwest appears to be entering
a new drought era. In the 20th century,
drought was principally precipitation
driven, and enhanced by temperature.
Indications from the simulations are that
a near perpetual state of drought will
materialize in the coming decades as a
consequence of increasing temperature.

This obviously needs reporting on from yours truly. For now, here’s a graphic version, drawn from Hoerling’s climate models (you’ll need to click to enlarge):
Our_future_drought

6 thoughts on “The Fifth Bad Thing: Drought

  1. You’re right, John. At first I gave Coultas a pass on the rain figure, because he is a farmer, but it did nag at me. Thinking it over since you mentioned it, now I believe he meant rainfall for this fall and winter to date, and if you look at it that way, he’s right. (He could even have been misquoted or edited, although as a reporter I hate to admit that.) We have had a whole inch of rain in the last couple of days, which is the most we’ve had this rain-year to date. It’s not a lot.

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  2. Yes, that is definitely the way farmers think about it. I’m just not sure if the “water year” begins officially on October 1st or Novemver 1st. When I find out I’ll make note here. Thanks for keeping me on the ball.

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  3. Wow, I was completely not paying attention to your storm, but now that it’s headed our way. Yowza. It’s just been sitting there off the coast and spinning. That’s a tremendous amount of rain y’all are getting. Finally El Nino? Or just noise in the system?

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