Extreme heat, drought will permanently scar California and its social fabric
Dr. Matthew Kirby
June 30, 2022
One important factor that distinguishes today’s conditions from those of the past is temperature, according to Matthew Kirby, a paleoclimatologist and professor at Cal State Fullerton. While drought alone is often seen as a measure of precipitation, aridification also accounts for the factor of heat.
Because average temperatures are increasing, “we’re going to start drying the soil moisture and changing the dynamics of snowpack, snowfall and rainfall,” Kirby said. “And all of that impacts water availability in ways that — without the temperature change — we might not see.”
And while drought can be a naturally occurring process tied to La Niña and other Earth systems, aridification is “without a doubt” linked to human-caused climate change, he said.
“What makes today unusual is the fact that we have humans involved. Humans weren’t changing climate 8,000 years ago, but they’re changing climate today, and that is the big unknown,” he said.