Griffin, Daniel, Anchukaitis, Kevin J.

Geophysical Research Letters

Published date December 28, 2014

How unusual is the 2012–2014 California drought?

  • Investigates how unusual the California drought from 2012 to 2014—the most severe drought conditions in the state this last century—has been
  • Uses two paleoclimate reconstructions of drought and precipitation for Central and Southern California to place the current event in the context of the last millennium
  • Demonstrates that while 3 year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon, the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years
  • Finds that precipitation during the drought has been anomalously low but not outside the range of natural variability
  • Concludes the current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures