UCSB study links drought severity to record heat

May 26, 2015

Credit NASA Image of the Day

    

A new study shows how record-high temperatures are adding to the severity of the ongoing drought. 

A group of scientists led by UC Santa Barbara's Shraddhanand Shukla, were trying to determine whether record-high temperatures had a measurable effect on the drought in 2014.

In order to determine the severity, they substituted nearly 100 years of temperatures in a hydrologic modeling exercise.

Shraddhanand Shukla said their research shows there's an 86-percent chance that the drought would not have been as severe as it was in 2014, had the temperatures been like those from the previous century.

"Our analysis indicates that because of the higher temperature, there was a deficit of soil moisture and runoff during spring and summertime," said Shukla.

The study does not serve as a predictor, but Shukla said that if it was used as an example, it would be fair to say that more severe drought conditions could persist if temperature and precipitation remain the same.

The study has been accepted for publication and will be available in print soon.