Temperature impacts on the water year 2014 drought in California

Shraddhanand Shukla, Mohammad Safeeq, Amir Aghakouchak, Kaiyu Guan, Chris Funk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


California is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. We use a hydrological model and risk assessment framework to understand the influence of temperature on the water year (WY) 2014 drought in California and examine the probability that this drought would have been less severe if temperatures resembled the historical climatology. Our results indicate that temperature played an important role in exacerbating the WY 2014 drought severity. We found that if WY 2014 temperatures resembled the 1916-2012 climatology, there would have been at least an 86% chance that winter snow water equivalent and spring-summer soil moisture and runoff deficits would have been less severe than the observed conditions. We also report that the temperature forecast skill in California for the important seasons of winter and spring is negligible, beyond a lead time of 1 month, which we postulate might hinder skillful drought prediction in California.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4384-4393
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 16 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • California drought
  • drought predictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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