Humans, El Nino Blamed for Planet’s Heat Wave

     (CN) – A one-two punch of human-caused global warming and a strengthening El Nino is adding to California’s drought woes and contributed to July being the hottest month ever recorded, scientists said Thursday.
     Worldwide temperatures in July were 1.46 degrees warmer than 20th century averages, making last month the warmest on record dating back to 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA scientists predict 2015 will replace last year as the warmest year on record, thanks in part to El Nino.
     Ocean temperatures continued to rise in July, particularly in the equatorial Pacific Ocean – a key indicator for measuring El Nino patterns. Along with the Pacific Ocean, parts of the North Atlantic and Indian Oceans registered record high temperatures.
     Continued global warming and a brewing El Nino termed “Godzilla” has sent forecasters scrambling to predict weather patterns for the fall and winter in drought-stricken California.
     Climate scientists at Columbia University released a study Thursday tying California’s extended drought to increased carbon emissions and a warming planet. The study published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters blames the drought on anthropogenic warming – human-caused global warming – and that future droughts could be more frequent and severe due to continued climate change.
     “Although natural variability dominates, anthropogenic warming has substantially increased the overall likelihood of extreme California droughts,” the report states.
     Researchers continue to dissect California’s changing climate and delve into the impacts of its crushing drought. NASA scientists said Wednesday the state’s farmland is sinking at a record pace due to overpumping of the state’s largest aquifer. A UC Davis economic report estimated the drought’s financial impact on the state’s agricultural industry to total $1.84 billion, including 10,000 lost jobs.
     Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday the various reports provide proof of California’s drought emergency and that lawmakers must take action.
     “New scientific reports now make it crystal clear that climate change is already affecting California and the Southwest in the form of higher temperatures and a more devastating drought. It’s time for Republicans, foot-dragging corporations and other deniers to wake up and take sensible action before it’s too late,” Brown said in a statement.
     Last fall California voters approved legislation authorizing $7 billion in bonds for water-supply infrastructure projects and public water-system improvements. Data from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office shows more than $3 billion has been spent on the drought since 2013, compared with $534 million in federal funding.
     A nonpartisan report from the Public Policy Institute of California examined the potential affects continued drought could have if it extends into 2016 and beyond. The report detailed devastating impact to various wildlife species and severe complications to rural communities already struggling with dwindling drinking-water supplies.
     “Two to three more years of drought will increase challenges in all areas and require continued-and likely increasingly difficult-adaptations,” the report warned. “Emergency programs will need to be significantly expanded to get drinking water to rural residents and to prevent major losses of water birds and extinctions of numerous native fish species, including most salmon runs.”

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