Climate Expert: Drought Could Be New Normal for Region - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Climate Expert: Drought Could Be New Normal for Region

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Some people have said this could be the start of a several decade long dry spell.

Dried up creek beds and golden hills that look like August (instead of January) could become our typical landscape if history repeats itself. UC Berkeley Professor Lynn Ingram is the author of 'The West Without Water.' She looked back 10,000-20,000 years and came to the conclusion - the Bay Area's climate is dry.

"It's important to understand our climate history and know when were the droughts and then there were years of extreme floods."

Ingram is a paleoclimatologist who uses history to forecast the future. And a study about tree rings lead her to predict, we could be in for the driest winter in 500 years. Narrow tree rings indicate little or no water for growth-just like they saw in the 1500s. "They put on rings every single year. So you can actually detect one year of drought."

Another indication, but not as precise are sediment cores that can span a few thousand years and point to the saltiness of San Francisco Bay.

"More fresh water -- and the salinity drops. And what they're seeing, is at least something on par with what happened here in 1976-1977 and this could be the norm for quite some time."

That was like the year with no rain.

"We could be on track for heading to a drier period. It's possible the 20th century was wet and now we are switching into a drier time period."

Some droughts, like one in the Middle Ages lasted more than a century. Ingram's not predicting that, she says that's like predicting earthquakes… but calls this time 'anxiety provoking.'

The Bay Area was built up during the wet 20th century, but it may be forced to adapt to a drier 21st.

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