SAN JOSE, Calif. — California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.

And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

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Bill Patzert, a research scientist and oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, says that the West is in a 20-year drought that began in 2000. He cites the fact that a phenomenon known as a “negative Pacific decadal oscillation” is underway — and that historically has been linked to extreme high-pressure ridges that block storms.

Such events, which cause pools of warm water in the North Pacific Ocean and cool water along the California coast, are not the result of global warming, Patzert said. But climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels has been linked to longer heat waves. That wild card wasn’t around years ago.

“Long before the Industrial Revolution, we were vulnerable to long extended periods of drought. And now we have another experiment with all this CO2 in the atmosphere where there are potentially even more wild swings in there,” said Graham Kent, a University of Nevada geophysicist who has studied submerged ancient trees in Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe.


6 thoughts on “Scientists: Past California droughts have lasted 200 years

      • Robert, I’m flattered that you asked for my feedback on this. I’m also excited that you are serious about creating change in society, as I am.

        So here are my thoughts: I think that Jonathan Turley’s points made more sense to me than Ian Fletcher’s because money playes a very big role in politics right now. The Citizen’s United ruling has sparked debate specifically for this reason. We had a debate in class about it last week. The question was: Does money equal speech? My answer was no. Money, even when used to further a way of thinking or ideology, is not speech. I say this because, when comparing the power of normal speech (oral and written language) to money, money has advantages.

        Take the abortion debate, for instance. If you have enough money, then you have the resources to hire experts, aides, allies, etc., to help you get your message out to voters. If you are pro-life and want to get into/stay in office, you can spread whatever misinformation you want through bill-boards, TV and magazine ads, pamphlets, and phone calls. If the other side doesn’t have equal resources, than the other side’s message will be almost invisible to voters. I’m sure that’s how all these pro-life congressman got into and stay in office. They spread lies about abortion, and voters have little choice but to believe those lies if they aren’t hearing any opposing arguments. Once in office, they have the power to pass unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. I think that’s a huge part of why, although the Republican/Conservative message and platform in reality helps no one but the rich, who are not the majority, they have a disproportionate amount of power over our entire society.

        The goal is to find a way to combat this. The quote from “The Art of War” is perfect for our purposes beacause in order to combat the influence of the Right, we have to analyze what has worked for them. We need to figure out how to come up with the kinds of resources they do. Obama found part of the solution in his use of grass-roots campaigning. But I think you are also right in realizing that there are more of us than there are of THEM, so why not pool our resources? Groups like the ACLU, PFAW, NAACP, Credo Action, etc., could pool their resources, and in doing so, pool their money and supporters. We would also do well to include the NRDC, and other groups that seek to save the environment. I’m a member of several of these groups. Wouldn’t it be even better, though, to have one super group!! The group could also include the Occupy movement, inc Occupy Homes, which I sign and share petitions for.

        We need a super group!


        • I like your thinking. A super group was precisely the aim of my blueprint. Your points on speech versus money are spot on. Speech expresses ideas. Money is just a bullhorn. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate it! 🙂


    • It could be formed if properly presented. What are the chances? Probably slim, but you never know. Events could trigger such a movement. It would require great organization and marketing. Would a special interest group like the Sierra Club sign on? Maybe, if their opposition to right-wing extremism became more important to them than environmental advocacy.


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