Scientists who have studied dry periods in California from the past millennium are warning that the scorching drought could last for over a hundred years.
California is currently experiencing one of its driest periods since 1580, University of California, Berkeley scientist Lynn Ingram told CBS News this week. Looking back at the past several thousand years reveals that some droughts in California have lasted more than a century.
Ingram has been examining sediments, tree rings, and microorganisms to learn about California’s temperature patterns and historical droughts. She told National Geographic last month that the 20th century might have been an anomaly and notes that, going back in history, California has been much drier and has even seen periods of mega-drought.
In medieval times, Ingram says, California and the Southwest saw a drought that lasted over a century.
She told CBS that these patterns “tend to repeat themselves” and that we can expect decades-long droughts to happen again.
With the huge multi-billion dollar agriculture industry in California, a mega-drought could be catastrophic. The state has already seen some negative effects on its agriculture business — some ranchers have been forced to kill off herds they can’t feed without native grass, and farmers are struggling to grow crops.
About 95% of the state is experiencing the drought.
The possible mega-drought would likely affect all of the southwest, according to research that was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December. Climate Central reports that there’s no indication the drought is letting up anytime soon.
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