The drought that has dragged on for four years now in California is the worst in at least 1,200 years, and the trouble is really the heat, not the lack of humidity. Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have released a new analysis that used a computer model "to create a picture of California's past weather dating back to the year 800 A.D." and tree ring data (from centuries-old trees) "to find information about dry and wet years dating back as far as 1293," according to KPCC. They report that the drought of the last few years "is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium" and that the 2014 water year, which ended in September, was probably the driest time of all. ("That includes 1580, 1782 and 1829 which were all famously dry years," says KPCC.)
California came out of all those droughts in the past, but it's possible this one could drag on for a very long time. Rainfall isn't actually abnormally low for a dry spell; it's the record heat that's made this drought so bad. So far, 2014 has been the hottest year in California since records began in 1895. Higher temperatures sap more moisture out of soil and plants, exacerbating drought conditions. And temperatures are probably going to keep rising, because the human race has not done anything meaningful to slow global warming, so things could get pretty dire out here.
· Drought: California's dry spell is the worst of the last 1,200 years, study finds [KPCC]
· How unusual is the 2012-2014 California drought? [UMN]
· Only 12 to 20 More Of These Storms And the Drought is Over! [Curbed LA]
· Seven Ways California Could Change in a 72-Year Drought [Curbed LA]