Climate Change Blogs

El Niño, California Drought, and Predictions

Published: October 28, 2014
El Niño, California Drought, and Predictions

Modified on 20141029

Back in May 2014, I wrote a couple of blogs about El Niño predictions for this year (Tracking El Niño and Underlying Models). In July, I did a summertime update. For those who need it, there are links to basic information such as definitions of terms in those blogs. This entry is an update.

As most of my readers already know, the excited, exaggerated springtime predictions have not come to fruition. The current prediction status, from the links below, is that there remains a chance of a weak El Niño. As I have followed the El Niño forecast, I have found the products and guidance from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to be the clearest and most usable. Their discussions are short, and compared to many other centers, their language does not fall quickly into either jargon or graphics that require a high level of expertise to interpret.

The latest Australian forecast is “Given current observations and model outlooks, the chance of a late season El Niño remains at least 50%, which is double the average likelihood of an event occurring.” I am going to try to break this down some. The first part of this forecast is telling me that the probability of a set of criteria that define El Niño is a little more than half. On the flip side, of this slightly warped coin, the probability that El Niño neutral will persist is a little less than half.

The other part of this sentence “which is double the average likelihood of an event occurring,” is a little harder to explain. If you look around the summaries from the different centers, then they say that the current measurements of the ocean and atmosphere are El Niño neutral, but there are a number of descriptors that, though measured as “neutral,” are tilted towards the El Niño condition. This is mostly related to the temperatures in the eastern Pacific being warmer than average. That is, we are close enough to El Niño that it's twice as likely to become an official El Niño than if we were smack in the middle of neutrality. The ocean and atmosphere are flirting with an El Niño.

The predictions from most centers are that if there is an El Niño, then it will be a weak El Niño. At most, there might be a moderate El Niño. (Again, if you need to know terms and definitions, I refer you to the links in the first paragraph.)

OK, no monster, super, or even strong El Niño. I remind you from the May 20, 2014 entry, “Note, none of these centers are predicting, yet, strong, super or monster.” All of that exaggeration came from elsewhere. And, perhaps tediously, as was the case in my cranky response to the return of the polar vortex, the increasing exaggeration and personification of weather events and their implications for climate change are distinctly negative contributions (link to my analysis). I rely on The Onion’s description of the deadly super rainbow to finish my point. (from my former student Evan O)

In my entry from May 29, 2014 I wrote, “even a moderate El Niño this year is likely to lead to the hottest year on record.” My rationale for this statement is that we are living in the hottest decade since we have had easily defended direct temperature measurements. We have remained warm, globally, despite relatively cool temperatures in the eastern Pacific. Given the importance of the eastern Pacific to the global picture, even a small break in the cool pattern is likely to lead to globally historic highs. Let’s do a summary, since modern temperature records began in 1880:

April 2014 the warmest April
May 2014 the warmest May
June 2014 the warmest June
July 2014 not quite the warmest July
August 2014 the warmest August
September 2014 the warmest September

(A short summary for NASA Earth Observatory) modifications ... There are some differences in the different records of the actual records on a month by month basis. It's worse than a football poll. Here is NOAA's Accounting which counts April as second warmest. Here is Deke Arndt on 2014 Temperatures. end modifications

At this point it will take the intervention of the Snow Queen to derail this year from the record books. My statement in the earlier blog was only me stating the self evident, I want to go back and give credit to Judith Lean and David Rind. Their analysis in 2009 laid out the story line that I am following (Bumps and Wiggles)

OK, California. When there was a prediction of a strong El Niño back in the spring of 2014, there was a lot of chatter about an El Niño breaking the California drought. Returning to the interpretation that I did of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s El Niño forecast, when there is an El Niño, the likelihood of rain (heavy rain) in California, in winter is higher. That does not mean that if there is an El Niño, that it will necessarily rain. It is also possible that there will be rain in the absence of an El Niño. There is a good blog from KQED in San Francisco about the reliability (or not) of the relationship between El Niño and California rain.

A couple of people have asked me what I think about the drought, El Niño, and this winter – like I should know. I remember back in 2013, March, sitting in Colorado following a very dry year, 2012. I was pretty much giving up on the garden, looking at a fall back of using city water on a very small garden, expecting water restrictions to be imposed. In fact, municipalities around Denver were imposing mandatory restrictions. Then in April of 2013, there was record snow. The mountains were laden with water. Then in September of 2013, there was flood. In this little spot, by no means the entire state, there was water. This year, 2014, the ditches were flowing later than I have every seen, but that’s not much of a measure. Such events make you exquisitely aware of the quixotic behavior of weather. I recall several instances in my life where drought was upon us, the reservoirs were drying, and then there was a singular event and reservoirs were full.

With that as a caveat, I am going to imagine that I have small farm near Cloverdale, California. If I were looking to the skies for water, I would be preparing for continued drought. What is going on with the El Niño forecasts does not support the easy hope of El Niño or rain and snow. The seasonal forecasts for California have been showing above average this winter in Southern California (link). My casual observation is that the western half of the U.S. is headed towards more of that persistent flow that keeps California dry. Even if there were enormous rains, they are not likely to extend across all of the watersheds required to fill California’s needs. It will take time to restore that part of the groundwater that can be restored.

I close with a mention of NOAA’s ENSO Blog. Emily Becker wrote an entry on October 9, 2014 entitled Details on the October ENSO Diagnostic Discussion: Trust, but Verify.


I like the effort from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to summarize the criteria for El Niño and La Niña watches, alerts and existence, in addition to the neutral phase.

Figure 1: ENSO Tracker indicating an El Niño WATCH (left) and El Niño ALERT (right). Far more details from Australian Bureau of Meteorology. In the July 29, 2014 update, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology shifted from Alert to Watch

Forecast and Analysis Centers

Climate Prediction Center Alert System and the Climate Prediction Center Diagnostic Discussion

International Research Institute Forecast Products and the Quick Look

Japanese Meteorological Agency El Niño Monitoring and Outlook and a nice graph of historical events

Australian Bureau of Meteorology Wrapup

Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) Forecasts

Information Portals

CLIVAR (Variability and predictability of the ocean-atmosphere system) Forecast Page

World Meteorological Updates

Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory El Niño Theme Page Forecasts

Climate Prediction Center FAQ

NOAA’s El Niño Page and NOAA’s La Niña Page

Summaries in Blogs

Judy Curry El Niño Watch


Rood’s Just Temperature Series

Just Temperature 3

Just Temperature 2

Just Temperature 1

Just What Is the New York Climate Summit?

Published: September 24, 2014
Just What Is the New York Climate Summit?

Added on September 24, 2014: Here is a video with interviews made by Bard MBA Students during the march.

By all accounts the People’s Climate March in New York stands as a great success. I see in the comments a few of you made it to the march. (New York Times Report) If you send me links to your blogs I will post them here – or, guest blog with photos? I also heard a report of a raucous good time in Oakland, CA.

The march was timed to precede the United Nations (U.N.) Climate Change Summit. In 2009 there was an energetic U.N. meeting in Copenhagen. I was at that meeting and wrote a bunch of blogs. Given all of the energy and expectations of the Copenhagen meeting, what has happened since that meeting is viewed by many as a bust. As climate-change policy efforts have clawed their way back, the energy is now focused on 2015 and the Conference of the Parties in Paris. The expectations in Paris are high – from their website, “The meeting will mark a decisive stage in negotiations on the future international agreement on a post-2020 regime, and will, as agreed in Durban, adopt the major outlines of that regime. By the end of the meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate.”

I see the New York Climate Summit as an effort to rally the troops and start a crescendo, trying to assure some success in Paris. The New York summit is named “Climate Summit 2014: Catalyzing Action. And from the U.N. website “There is a sense that change is in the air. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action. He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.” There is comprehensive information on the web page, including the statements from the different nations.

The press coverage I have heard, and I don’t have cable, dish or even an antenna – the press coverage I heard prior to the meeting often touted the “presence” of business and corporations. Just to be tedious, in the past corporations, which see opportunity, have been present at climate-change meetings. (Note careful use of “which” instead of “who.”) Touted on the U.N. page Oil, gas industry launches ‘immediate-impact’ plan to slash global warming emissions. I leave it to the reader to analyze the content of that announcement.

Over the past few months, there have been the releases of high profile climate-change documents. A document that garnered much attention because of the gravitas of the authors is Risky Business: The Economic Risk of Climate Change in the United States. This report uses standard risk-assessment approaches and focuses “on the clearest and most economically significant of these [climate-change] risks: Damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge, climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand, and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.”

Risky Business reaches conclusions using the harshness of numbers, for example: “There is a 1-in-20 chance—about the same chance as an American developing colon cancer; twice as likely as an American developing melanoma – that by the end of this century, more than $701 billion worth of existing coastal property will be below mean sea levels, with more than $730 billion of additional property at risk during high tide. By the same measure of probability, average annual losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico will grow by more than $42 billion due to sea level rise alone. Potential changes in hurricane activity could raise this figure to $108 billion.”

Rather than focusing on risk and cost, the New Climate Economy takes a different approach: “For such decision-makers, climate change is rarely a primary concern. Their motivations are to promote short-term economic growth and job creation, increase market share and profitability, improve energy and food security, build competitive cities and reduce poverty. Yet their decisions powerfully influence the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions. So the core question the project has sought to answer is: how can decision-makers achieve their economic and social goals while simultaneously reducing the risk of dangerous climate change?”

The report from New Climate Economy, Better Growth, Better Climate, starts with “We live in a moment of great opportunity.” (I have been ending my class and lectures with that statement for several years. Shouldn't I get some credit?) What I have read and heard (they have a pretty cool website, I can hear and write at the same time), I like this report. Thinking just a little bit, we have been dealing with weather and climate for all of our existence, spending money to harden our buildings for storms, levees to manage floods and money to rebuild. Therefore, spending money in a changing climate is not entirely a situation of we used to spend no money on weather and climate, now we have to spend money on weather and climate. Our opportunity is to try to spend our money intelligently in a changing climate – plus, the need to spend money to keep those changes from getting completely out of hand. (In the spirit of possibility, What's Possible, the opening film for the U.N. Summit.)

The last report I will mention is one by Timothy Wirth and Thomas Daschle, two former senators. Some of my favorite people to listen to are former senators and former bureaucrats. Some months ago they wrote A Blueprint to End Paralysis Over Global Action on Climate. This opinion piece got some play in the run up to this week’s climate summit. They directly focus on the 2015 meeting in Paris with four principle elements:

1. affirmation of global objectives

2. making national commitments to emissions reductions

3. agree to a systemic review of their emissions reductions pledges

4. finance

With regard to finance Wirth and Daschle maintain, “The capital needed for a global shift to low-carbon energy systems can be mobilized from highly liquid but risk-averse institutional investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies, and sovereign wealth funds, which have assets of more than $80 trillion. The way to attract these funds is to engage public finance entities as partners to reduce investment risk, particularly in developing countries, and ensure safe, predictable returns.” (Wirth interview on Living on Earth)

Wednesday morning, September 24, 2014, in New York City there will be an event sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which will be “highlighting the new steps the United States Government is taking to help empower developing nations to boost their own climate resilience.” The event “will feature remarks by Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Timothy E. Wirth, Vice Chair of the United Nations Foundation; Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Dr. Suzette Kimball, Acting Director of the U.S. Geological Survey.” (I am quoting from my invitation. Sadly, I am not in New York.) This event will be adding some material support to the statements made Tuesday (September 23, 2014) by President Obama.

No matter how tomorrow’s event goes, Dr. Holdren will have a hard time beating his performance as framed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. In my little world this is practically viral, so I am sure that I will be the last to pass it on. May as well remind you of John Oliver’s take on climate change as well. Do owls exist?


Figure 1: A ton of carbon dioxide in Copenhagen. It’s still about the same size and we have a lot more of them in the atmosphere.

Climate Change Problem Solving at Michigan

Published: September 20, 2014
Climate Change Problem Solving at Michigan

At the University of Michigan a group of graduate students founded and manage the Michigan Journal of Sustainability. The Journal aims to foster transdisciplinary communication by publishing timely, innovative, stimulating, and informative articles that translate scholarly research on systemic sustainability problems into useful formats for practitioners and policy makers. The Journal focuses on three areas: (1) sustainable freshwater systems, (2) livable communities, and (3) responses to climate variability and change. The Journal is sponsored by the Graham Sustainability Institute. In the current issue there are a number of articles on climate change including one on the efforts of Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (Washington State, not Virginia) efforts at climate adaptation and planning for climate change in legacy cities (those that have lost jobs and population). I have links to all of the articles at the end of the blog.

I wrote the introduction to the issue. The blog below is extracted from that introduction. My entire piece can be accessed here.

Recently, I gave a talk on information systems and usable science. In the past decade, I have focused on accelerating the use of climate-change knowledge in planning and management. In the academic literature, the term “usable” science has emerged to describe information that is understandable, relevant, and capable of being used by decision makers (Dilling and Lemos 2011). Usable science stands in contrast to the data and knowledge that scientists and researchers proffer as useful, but which are created in isolation from decision makers and without knowledge of specific decision contexts. My talk was drawn from an article that Paul Edwards and I wrote following our experimental class on climate informatics (Rood and Edwards in Earthzine, 2014). In the article, we emphasize that there are many online data services and portals and that the data from these assets are often so hard to use that they are deemed unusable. This usability gap is not unique to the climate informatics field but is pervasive across the sciences. Simply put, access to data is not enough.

Access to knowledge can be framed as an extension of access to data. We naively expect that knowledge will be broadly used to address problems of climate change and sustainability, but, like access to data, access to knowledge is insufficient. It follows that simply generating knowledge is not adequate for problem solving. We need to provide information on what to do with that knowledge, as well as training on how to use that knowledge. We need to correct “[t]he erroneous assumption…that skills evolve naturally from knowledge” (Hines, Hungerford, and Tomera 1987).

The academic enterprise in the United States is magnificently successful at generating knowledge. Some say that the miracle of the Enlightenment and the advance of Western thought lay in the emergence of the reductionist scientific method. The reductionist approach breaks down problems into pieces, isolates them, and studies them in a controlled fashion (Wilson 1998). Reduction leads naturally to disciplinary study. Problem solving, on the other hand, requires the integration and translation of knowledge and the synthesis of that knowledge into actions. Though we talk about cross-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary research, such broad-based research struggles to gain traction in our scientific enterprise. We do not adequately value the unification of science; we do not adequately value the integration of knowledge across fields. Therefore, problem solving is frustratingly slow.

Problem solving often requires reaching out of your area of expertise, out of your discipline, but academia awards funding and tenure for discipline-based production of knowledge. There are tensions and barriers between the rules of the game for successful academics and the elements of effective problem solving. This tension reaches deep, as the review process and funding practices support the successful academic more robustly than they support successful problem solving.

There is another role for the academic in the public and political discourse— education (Cuomo 2011). At the request of students who were not scientists, I started a course on climate change that attracted a mix of students. Some were deeply expert in how particles of dust in the atmosphere influence energy exchanges. Others were acutely aware of the disruptions that climate change will cause and wanted to know how to integrate this knowledge into finance. Early in the course, I was faced with the fact that the non-scientists often knew more about the climate as a whole than the science students. What was needed was a framework for critical thinking to allow students to use knowledge from many fields in problem solving. This example also illustrates that we need to learn how to solve problems earlier, rather than later, in our lives. Sustainability and climate change are problems of the here and now, and these problems require problem solvers ready to take action on these challenges.

A unique way that universities can influence the public and political discourse is to develop professional problem solvers, translators who are prepared to break down the barriers created by disciplines and competing interests. These professionals need to take their places in the workforce and in political entities and work to bridge divides. In keeping with the mission of the Michigan Journal of Sustainability, we need to bring scientists, practitioners, and policy makers together. As you read the articles in this issue, I encourage you to think about how topics outside of your own field may actually be connected to your work, and how you might serve as a translator across fields to contribute to the synthesis and development of strategies that will address the challenges of the future.


Articles from Current Issue of Michigan Journal of Sustainability

Welcome from the Editorial Board

Introduction to Volume 2

Climate Change and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe: A Customized Approach to Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Planning

Planning for Climate Change in Legacy Cities: The Case of Detroit, Michigan

The Ecology Center: Organizational Structure, Leadership, and the Environmental Movement

Internet-Based Heat Evaluation and Assessment Tool (I-HEAT): Feasibility Analysis of a Visualization and Decision-support Tool for Extreme Heat Preparedness in Detroit, Michigan

Internet-Based Heat Evaluation and Assessment Tool (I-HEAT): Development of a Novel Visualization and Decision-support Tool for Extreme Heat Preparedness in Detroit, Michigan

Participatory Landscape Design Detroit: A Tool for Environmental Education and Action

The Sustainable Urban Alternatives House in Flint, Michigan

The Forgotten Americans: A Visual Exploration of Lower Rio Grande Valley Colonias
Categories:Climate Change

Futuristic 3-D Weather Graphics Grace the Weather Forecast for 2050

Published: September 10, 2014
Futuristic and creative 3-D weather graphics like you've never seen before light up the screen in today's impressive forecast for September 23, 2050 released by the Weather Channel. The video was made in response to an appeal by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to television weather presenters world-wide to imagine a “weather report from the year 2050,” based on the best science we have as summarized in the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. If humanity’s current "business as usual" approach to emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide continues, the average temperature of the Earth’s lower atmosphere could rise more than 4°C (7.2°F) by the end of the 21st century. But what does a global average temperature rise really mean? How would we experience it on a daily basis? Each day between now and the convening of the key 2014 climate summit in New York City the week of September 21, 2014--when the leaders of the world will assemble to lay out the road map to the crucial December 2015 climate negotiations in Paris--the WMO will release a new "Weather Report From 2050" on their website. Today's video from the Weather Channel imagines a future when it wouldn't take a landfalling hurricane to push water levels two feet above normal in Miami Beach--the onshore winds of a hurricane passing 400 miles offshore could cause that level of flooding, due to sea level rise. The report also envisions that the current 15-year drought affecting the Southwest U.S. will continue into 2050, becoming a decades-long "megadrought". On the lighter side, we hear about a new baseball team called the "Alberta Clippers" (named after a type of fast-moving snowstorm that originates in Alberta), and see Jim Cantore calling up hurricane tracking charts on his outstretched hand. It's a unique and impressive effort well-worth checking out, and will air on The Weather Channel's cable station throughout the day today (Wednesday.) I'll be featured in a separate behind-the-scences look at how we came up with the weather stories featured in the video.

Video 1. The daily weather forecast for September 23, 2050, as imagined by The Weather Channel.

Jeff Masters
Categories:Climate Change

Climate Case Study: California Drought (2)

Published: September 2, 2014
Climate Case Study: California Drought (2)

In my last blog I explored the current California drought as a climate case study. In my climate case studies I focus on interconnections, for example, how weather and climate influence jobs and behavior. This helps us expose the connections, the management strategies and the policies that are effective or absent. The stresses of climate change will generally amplify the threats due to these events with the expectation, that over the next 3 decades, the climate stresses will increase relative to other stresses. I also made a reaching metaphor to the extinction of large mammals at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in western Nebraska. The point of the metaphor was to expose the risks of short-term pumping of ground water on longer-term sustainability. In this blog I want to analyze some of the media coverage and a recent paper about the drought.

I would be a deficient blogger if I did not write about the 63 trillion gallons. If you do a search on “63 trillion gallons California,” there will be many hits (LATimes, Mashable). There are pictures of what 63 trillion gallons look like, though not really. This number is drawn from a paper by Adrian Borsa et al. entitled Ongoing drought-induced uplift in the western United States. (Also, though not really!)

This is a nicely written paper, which is, at least currently, not behind a pay wall. The paper examines several hundred ground-based Geographical Positioning Systems (GPS) sensors. These sensors have been placed in the ground over the past couple of decades, primarily to help measure how the surface of the Earth is moving. Back when I was at NASA in the late 1990s, these were being placed in the ground of Southern California. It was part of an investigation to inform, ultimately, earthquake prediction. Now there is a network of more than 800 sensors in the western part of the U.S., west of a line running, north-south, from western New Mexico and Colorado, central Wyoming and east-central Montana (longitude 109W). This line is west of the Continental Divide, in Colorado and New Mexico, which is relevant because it captures most of the Colorado River Basin, an important part of the California’s water picture.

The first point of the paper is, in my opinion, that this data system is of sufficient precision and adequate coverage that the rise and fall of the Earth’s crust due to the changing surface and ground water can be measured. The second point is that they can distinguish between wet and dry years, and in 2014, a time of exceptional drought, the crust of the Earth has risen in some places up to 15 millimeters, which is a little more than a half an inch. That’s a pretty cool measurement. The cause of this rise is loss of water, and of course, a loss of the water’s mass, which effectively changes the local gravity field.

The authors talk about the rise of the land being equivalent, at its maximum, to a decrease of about 50 cm of water. 50 cm is about 20 inches. When they calculate this water loss, they state it is consistent with changes in stream flow and precipitation. By consistent, they mean that they calculate the budget of water mass and, within their levels of uncertainty, the numbers match. The authors state that the total mass loss is equivalent to 10 cm of water (about 4 inches), spread over the entirety of the study area. To my knowledge the number of gallons of water were not mentioned in the paper, but I did not check the online supplemental information. It’s an easy enough calculation.

This relation between the measurement of rise and fall of the Earth’s surface and precipitation, evaporation and stream flow is what leads the authors of the paper to conclude, “Our analysis shows that the existing network of continuous GPS stations in the western USA measures vertical crustal motion at sufficient precision and sampling density to allow the estimation of interannual changes in water loads, providing a new view of the ongoing drought in much of the WUSA (Western United States of America).” The authors do not pose this measurement, their number, as a measure of exceptionalism or extremes. (There is another interesting number in the paper. The authors calculate that the change in stress along the San Andreas fault is equal to about a week’s worth of the normal strain due to the motion along the fault.)

One of the problems I have with the press coverage is that this 63 trillion gallons and the change in the Earth’s crust is out of context of any other numbers. It is the first time the measurement has been made, not the first time there has been the change in the water sufficient enough to change the Earth’s elevation. There are also many pictures showing depleted reservoirs, again out of context. If one were so inclined, then one could find many inconsistencies and allusions, which would be open, potentially, to criticism of exaggeration. All of this is generated by the reportage on the paper on points that, to the best of my reading, were not made in the paper. Looking around with my favorite search engines, I can find a number of stories and pictures that, often with the best of intentions, are adding more extreme, more emotional adjectives to describe the drought. (Oh, Rood, are you going down the alarmist path? Ye, of the Beardogs?)

In my wandering around on the California drought, I came across the prolific writing and videos of Jay Famiglietti. Jay and I have mingled in the same worlds for much of our careers and were co-authors on a National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling. In Op-Ed’s, blogs and his scientific writings, Famiglietti is laying out the essential need for California, and by extension for the U.S., to develop rational, sustainable water policy. Looking at supply and demand, if the current drought continues as current conditions suggest, California will soon be down to a water supply of months. Even if there is an exceptional period of rain that ends this particular drought, the stresses of residential demand, agricultural demand and climate change will soon, again, converge to crises that erode community, productivity and economy.

Jay Famiglietti: How Much Water Does California Have Left? An nice piece on how water management and keeping the population centers hydrated place the problem out of sight out of mind.

Jay Famiglietti: Can We End the Global Water Crisis?

Castle et al.: Groundwater depletion during drought threatens future water security of the Colorado River Basin (open access, a more important paper about California water than the paper discussed in this blog)

Figure 1: Figure from Randall Munroe of This graph shows a time series from 2000 to 2014 of the extent of the graph. Details are provided at this link on (Yes, I would be science happier if "ludicrous" was not used, but it is a good graph, and it has the dates. Many of the images appear in other graphs but with no dates.)

Here is a nice Infographic from the LA Times: 191 drought maps, with dates.

Note: The changes in the land associated with removal and addition of water have many of the same causes and effects as the effects of sea level rise on land. There have been large amounts of sinking in parts of California’s Central Valley due to pumping of ground water. Some of the basic concepts are in my blog Sea-level Variability: A Primer.

Understanding California’s Groundwater / Water in the West
About the Blogs
These blogs are a compilation of Dr. Jeff Masters,
Dr. Ricky Rood, and Angela Fritz on the topic of climate change, including science, events, politics and policy, and opinion.