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The California Climate Dipole and Long-term Variations in Water Resources

Authors: Glen MacDonald*, University of California - Los Angeles, Chunyu Dong, Center for Water Resources and Environment School of Civil Engineering Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU), People's Republic of China, Konstantine Kremenetski, University of California - Los Angeles, Matthew Kirby, California State University - Fullerton
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Water Resources and Hydrology, Biogeography
Keywords: California, climate, vegetation, drought, paleoecology
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


California can at times experience a hydroclimatic dipole between the northern and southern portions of the state. The strength and geographic positioning if this dipole is influenced by sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and related phenomena such as ENSO and the PDO. New analysis of 20th and 21st century drought geographies, as represented by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and vegetation response as represented by remotely sensed NDVI, indicate the presence of this dipole in recent aridity trends. The southern portions of the State being the most severely impacted by increasing aridity and droughts. Dendrohydrological records of PDSI, river flows and snowpack water equivalents are used to examine the nature of the California climate dipole for the past 500 and 1000 years and elucidate its persistence in the pre-instrumental period. These analysis indicate that during some prolonged prehistoric droughts, notably during the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, water resources from both northern and southern California were decreased in sum over decadal periods.

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