California's Ongoing Drought Is Its Most Severe in 1,200 Years

Illustration for article titled California's Ongoing Drought Is Its Most Severe in 1,200 Years

A recent study published by the American Geophysical Union concludes California's ongoing megadrought is the worst the state has seen in more than a millennium.


Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker | CC BY 2.0

"While 3-year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon," geoscientists Daniel Griffin, of the University of Minnesota, and Kevin Anchukaitis, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, write in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters, " the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years."

WaPo's Angela Fritz summarizes the study's findings:

[Griffin and Ahchukaitis] reconstructed California's temperature and precipitation history back to 800 A.D. using tree ring data. Hidden in this millennium of data they found as many as 66 dry periods of at least three to nine years. In the entire 1,200 year period they studied, there were only three droughts that were similar in nature to the current drought.


As of this posting, 55% of California remains in an exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This, in spite of several back-to-back storms that swept the state this week.

Read the full scientific study at Geophysical Research Letters.

H/t WaPo


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The study you reference does not include the recent rain storms, though it is a big drop in the proverbial bucket.