Atmospheric Controls on the Persistent 2011-2015 Californian Drought

Authors: Veronica Hanway*, University of Wyoming, Jacqueline J. Shinker, University of Wyoming
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Physical Geography, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Hazard, Drought, Water Resources, California
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As the effects of climate change become intensified, increases in temperature have consequences for water resources in the west. While impacting both winter snowpack in mountainous headwaters and surface water, droughts impact availability in water supply, ecosystem disturbance, reduced water quality, and agricultural productivity. We assess the most recent drought that occurred from 2011 to 2015 within the San Joaquin Valley in California, with a focus on the atmospheric and surface processes that led to the drought. Paleoclimatic literature demonstrates that there have been several, considerably longer, and more intense droughts in the past, however, such data on past droughts are unable to provide information on the atmospheric processes that set the stage for drought. By utilizing the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) dataset we calculated seasonal composite-anomaly values to assess the atmospheric and surface controls on the 2011-2015 drought. Large-scale anomalous atmospheric controls related to temperature, sinking motions, and reduced moisture availability were used to analyze the conditions that led to the 2011-2015 Californian drought. Our preliminary results show a persistent anomalous high pressure along the west coast of California. This persistent anomalous high pressure along with southeasterly vector winds at the 500mb level prevented the normal winter season precipitation from being delivered into the region. Our results provide context for modern and paleo drought conditions in the San Joaquin Valley where water availability is crucial because of the over four hundred agricultural commodities and a population of nearly four million people.

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