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A Drought-Buster Study

Results Show Probable Wet Winter for Water-Stressed SoCal
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Cal State Fullerton geologist Matthew E. Kirby and six student scholars view their latest research effort as a drought-buster study.

Their research on climate change in the Mojave Desert and Southern California demonstrates a persistent connection between warming sea surface temperatures in the Pacific and winter climate over the past 14,800 years — potentially signaling a very wet winter this year.

“The finding is very interesting in the context of our present climate situation with the warming of the Pacific, or El Niño conditions,” said Kirby, associate professor of geological sciences.

Kirby’s study, co-authored with his students, was published Aug. 8 in the peer-reviewed journal Quaternary Research

The team previously documented this relationship using sediments from Zaca Lake, near Santa Barbara, which covered the past 3,000 years. Their latest study at Silver Lake, a dry lakebed in the Mojave Desert, extends this Pacific sea surface temperature and winter precipitation relationship back 14,800 years.

“What we see in the past is often a good analog for what can happen in the future,” Kirby said. “Will future global warming and rising sea surface temperatures in the Pacific generate more winter precipitation in Southern California? Our research says probably — if the past 14,000 years are a good indicator of how the climate system behaves.”

CSUF’s Strengthening Transfer Education and Matriculation in STEM program and University grants helped fund the research project.

Media Contacts:

Matthew E. Kirby, Geological Sciences
Debra Cano Ramos