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California Drought Patterns Are Recurring... And 'Triple R' May Be To Blame

Apr 04, 2016 12:00 PM EDT
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Before and after images show effects of wildfire in California coast

It looks like California will have to be extra resilient in the coming years, as a new study revealed that the recent droughts threatening the Golden State will become more common and will possibly bring more extreme dry spells in the future.

This is due to a blocking ridge, dubbed the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge," that deflects storms from the state.

"The epic drought is far from over. These scientists show that the frequency of atmospheric circulation patterns that worsen drought conditions has increased over the long-term," said Anjuli Bamzai, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, in astatement.

According to the study that was funded by NSF and published in the journal Science Advances, there is a significant increase in the occurrence of atmospheric patterns associated with certain precipitation and temperature extremes from the 67-year period.

These patterns are related to different climate and weather events, including floods and droughts, according to Stanford scientists Noah Diffenbaugh, as per this statement.

Using historical data from the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, the researchers analyzed the atmospheric conditions for the driest, wettest, warmest and coolest years of the typical winter season (October to May) from 1949 to 2015.

The researchers then produced a composite for what the atmosphere would look like during each year with the most extreme weather conditions by California standards, SF Gate reported.

They discovered that the drought in California is almost always associated with blocking ridges.

This blocking ridge, according to Live Science, appeared in 2012. Called the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge," or "Triple R," by Stanford University doctorate student Daniel Swain in 2013, it blocks and deflects storm tracks during the typical rainy season.

This ridge redirects the storm back to the Pacific Ocean, resulting to a high and dry California--even in what should be the wettest time of the year.

According to California Water Science Center, the state is now experiencing the fifth year of severe drought.

In response to the calamity, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation started the Drought Response Program that includes contingency planning, resiliency projects and emergency response actions.

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