New research from the University of Texas at Austin shows wind is largely responsible for droughts in California, not the amount of evaporated moisture or human activity.
The finding, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, shows that while evaporation of the Pacific Ocean is a major source of California’s precipitation, the amount of water evaporating does not have a major impact on the amount of rain. The researchers note the Pacific evaporation rate does not really change from year to year, so rainfall rates wouldn’t change either.
“Ocean evaporation provides moisture for California precipitation but is not the reason for droughts there,” Jiangfeng Wei, lead author and research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, said in a press release.
The finding helps scientists understand how the water cycle plays into extreme weather events, like the California drought, and could aid in drought prediction moving forward. The researchers say the current California drought is due to a high-pressure system that is disturbing atmospheric circulation.
National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sukup told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the high pressure system — or “ridge” as it’s known — has been “persisting above southern California for 5 years.” Sukup said a high pressure system forces “storm tracks to stay north” as opposed to dumping rain on California.
“When high pressure patterns develop, they are hard to break through,” Sukup told TheDCNF.