Evaluating the Evolution of the California Drought and Monitoring Societal Risks with NOAA's U.S. Climate Reference Network

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Monday, 5 January 2015
Ronald D. Leeper, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites/North Caroline State University, Asheville, NC; and J. E. Bell

The 2014 drought has been one of California's most intense and widespread droughts in decades. For the western United States, drought conditions began to steadily amplify over 2013, while much of the U.S. was in the process of recovering from the historical drought of 2012. Drought conditions in California further intensified over the summer of 2014 with over 80% of the state in extreme drought conditions or worse. The societal impacts of such an extreme drought event range from a reduction of water resources, decreased agricultural productivity, elevating fuel availability for wild fires (dry vegetation), and negatively impacting human health. As drought is a slow evolving process, the ability to accurately characterize drought severity and recovery is an area of active research. NOAA's U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) is a tool that can expand our understanding of drought and other climatic events, as the network is constructed to monitor both atmospheric climate and soil climate on a national level. The California drought provides an opportunity to use the network to systematically evaluate both above- and belowground changes from drought intensification to recovery in addition to exploring metrics to monitor societal risks.