Recently, year-to-year swings in California winter precipitation extremes have resulted in drought, wildfires, and floods causing billions of dollars in damage. These recent precipitation swings represent an increasing trend in variability of California's hydroclimate over the past decades. Here, we put this trend in a longer-term context using tree-ring-based precipitation, streamflow, and snow water equivalent reconstructions. We show that the statewide rise in hydroclimate variability in the 20th century is driven by an increasing trend in the magnitude of wet extremes. A prior period of strong variability in the 16th century, in contrast, is related to an increasing trend in the magnitude of dry extremes. Our results are consistent with climate model simulations that suggest an increasingly volatile future for California's hydroclimate and highlight the importance of collaboration between scientists and water resource managers to incorporate this increased variability into their decision-making and planning, acknowledging higher risks for compound events.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)