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Climate Change Intensifying California Drought

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

New Melones Reservoir. Taken July 2014.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Climate change is playing a part in California’s drought. Research released Thursday suggests global warming is making the drought worse.

California’s record-breaking drought is likely a result of natural climate variability – not global warming. But a new analysis in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says rising temperatures from climate change are making the drought 15 to 20 percent more severe.

Scientists analyzed temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and other data from 1901 to last year. They found no long-term trend in rainfall but did find temperatures increased by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures cause water to evaporate more quickly.

By the 2060’s the study says California will be in a state of semi-permanent drought broken only by short bursts of intense rainfall. California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement that the research makes it crystal clear that climate change is already affecting California and the southwest.