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Recent California Water Year Precipitation Deficits: A 440-Year Perspective

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  • 1 NOAA/ESRL/Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • | 2 Paleoclimatology Group, NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Information, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

An analysis of the October 2013–September 2014 precipitation in the western United States and in particular over the California–Nevada region suggests this anomalously dry season, while extreme, is not unprecedented in comparison with the approximately 120-yr-long instrumental record of water year (WY; October–September) totals and in comparison with a 407-yr WY precipitation reconstruction dating back to 1571. Over this longer period, nine other years are known or estimated to have been nearly as dry or drier than WY 2014. The 3-yr deficit for WYs 2012–14, which in California exceeded the annual mean precipitation, is more extreme but also not unprecedented, occurring three other times over the past approximate 440 years in the reconstruction. WY precipitation has also been deficient on average for the past 14 years, and such a run of predominantly dry WYs is also a rare occurrence in the authors’ merged reconstructed plus instrumental period record.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00774.s1.

Corresponding author address: Henry F. Diaz, NOAA/ESRL/CIRES, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. E-mail: henry.f.diaz@noaa.gov

Abstract

An analysis of the October 2013–September 2014 precipitation in the western United States and in particular over the California–Nevada region suggests this anomalously dry season, while extreme, is not unprecedented in comparison with the approximately 120-yr-long instrumental record of water year (WY; October–September) totals and in comparison with a 407-yr WY precipitation reconstruction dating back to 1571. Over this longer period, nine other years are known or estimated to have been nearly as dry or drier than WY 2014. The 3-yr deficit for WYs 2012–14, which in California exceeded the annual mean precipitation, is more extreme but also not unprecedented, occurring three other times over the past approximate 440 years in the reconstruction. WY precipitation has also been deficient on average for the past 14 years, and such a run of predominantly dry WYs is also a rare occurrence in the authors’ merged reconstructed plus instrumental period record.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00774.s1.

Corresponding author address: Henry F. Diaz, NOAA/ESRL/CIRES, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. E-mail: henry.f.diaz@noaa.gov

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