Cause of California drought linked to climate change

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Climatologists at Stanford have found proof that climate change is having an effect on California?s drought and other extreme weather conditions around the world.

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Climatologists at Stanford have found proof that climate change is having an effect on California's drought and other extreme weather conditions around the world.

California ends its official water measurement year on Tuesday with a near record low. The cause is a high pressure in the North Pacific called the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.

A Stanford Ph.D. candidate linked the formation of the ridge with conditions from climate change.

Daniel Swain, 25, discovered the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.

"Well, one could call it the Region of Unusually Persistently High Geo-potential Heights Over the Northeastern Pacific Ocean, but I think Ridiculously Resilient Ridge is shorter," Swain said.

When looking at Swain's computer screen, ABC7 News saw that the moving red blob of high atmospheric pressure in the north that has persisted for two winters now, metaphorically speaking, "is the rock in the stream. That big read blob is, over the course of the examination, sitting where the jet stream and storm track would be," Swain described.

It's the physical cause of California's drought. Swain published an academic paper on Monday that is the first to connect climate change with the formation of that ridge.

The study is based on a comparison of two types of model atmospheres: the one we have today with carbon emissions compared with others showing how it would have been before cars, coal plants and modern agriculture.

"I don't think there is any evidence that this is a permanent condition, although what we have shown is there is an increased risk that this sort of extreme pressure pattern will occur," Swain said.

This study is a peek into the mechanism behind California's water crisis, further proof that it has a cause.