UC Berkeley Professor: California Dry Spell May Be Worst Since 1500s

By | January 26, 2014

UC Berkeley Professor: California Dry Spell May Be Worst Since 1500s

In California, 2013 was a record-setting year because of the lack of rainfall. A professor at UC Berkeley warns this time could go into the record books as the driest in centuries.

“Some people have said that this could be the start of a several decade-long dry spell,” Lynn Ingram, professor of paleoclimatology told KPIX 5. Ingram examines history to help forecast the future.

Dried up creek beds along with golden hills that look like its August instead of January could become our typical landscape, if history repeats itself.

Ingram is the author of the book “The West without Water.” She looked back 10 to 20 thousand years and came to the conclusion that we live in a dry climate.

“It’s important to understand our climate history and know when were the droughts, and then we also had years of extreme floods,” Ingram said.

A study about tree rings led her to predict that we could be in for the driest winter in 500 years. Narrow tree rings indicate little or no water for growth, just like people saw in the 1500s.

“They put on rings every single year. So you can actually be able to detect one year of drought,” Ingram said.

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. What they are seeing is at least something on par with what happened here in the dry years of 1976 and 1977, and this could be the norm for quite some time.

“That was like the year with no rain,” Ingram said. “We could be on track for heading into a drier sort of period.”

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

Some droughts, like one in the Middle Ages, lasted more than a century. Ingram is not predicting that, she said that’s like predicting earthquakes. Still, Ingram called this time of dry conditions anxiety provoking.

Ingram said we should use this information to rethink how we use, save, and recycle our water.


Time to get one of those machines that pulls water from the air, or think about seeding.

Following World War II, the British government was still looking at ways to get a leg up over enemy militaries. The Nazis had come close to destroying Britain, and the United Kingdom had developed a taste for preparation. The British government looked to the skies for an advantage. The Royal Air Force (RAF) began experimenting with cloud seeding. By impregnating the clouds with the particles needed to create a severe thunderstorm, the British could effectively thwart the movement of troops and even literally rain out enemy advances. But the cloud-seeding project went terribly awry.
It’s not that the experiments with cloud seeding didn’t work. It worked too well.

In 2001, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) investigated rumors that the RAF had seeded the clouds over England. They turned up first-person accounts of some of the pilots who were involved in a top-secret mission called Operation Cumulus. During this August 1952 operation, RAF pilots flew above the cloud line, dropping payloads of dry ice, salt and — like the Chinese currently use — silver iodide.

After just 30 minutes, rain began to fall from the infected clouds. At first, the RAF pilots — dubbed rainmakers by the press — reputedly celebrated their success. But within the week a deluge began. By the end of the month, North Devon, an area of England near the site of the cloud-seeding experiment, experienced 250 times the normal amount of rainfall. On August 15, 1952, the day the rain started, an estimated 90 million tons of water coursed through the town of Lynmouth in just one day. Entire trees were uprooted, forming dams and allowing the tide of the two rivers flowing through Lynmouth to grow even stronger in force. Boulders were carried by the current, destroying buildings and carrying residents into the sea. In all, 35 Britons lost their lives that day as a result of the torrential rain. Britain’s Ministry of Defense maintains that it had not experimented with cloud seeding prior to the Lynmouth incident.

China and Britain paint two versions of the same picture. On one hand, the Asian nation has successfully created a cloud-seeding program. They’ve managed to generate irrigation for arid croplands from the ultimate source. But the British disaster shows the potential results of toying with the forces of nature.

And still, we need water more than ever. Using explosions isn’t viable to produce water currently, and AquaMagic and Whisson’s Windmill aren’t being produced on a large enough scale to help with the immediate need for water. Water is a finite resource, and one life on Earth can’t do without. …

The AquaMagic machine — which currently cost about $28,000 per unit — can produce up to 120 gallons of purified water in 24 hours, and since it’s small it can be toted to disaster sites and Sub-Saharan Africa alike. But it also has one drawback: To produce this much water, AquaMagic requires about 12 gallons of diesel fuel. It’s here that the Whisson Windmill (which runs about $43,000 per unit) has a clear advantage over AquaMagic: It’s totally green. It runs exclusively on wind power, requiring no fossil fuel. Even the condenser runs off the power generated by the windmill’s turbines….

The skeptic’s forum had this:

Max says:
“At 30 degrees centigrade, with a relative humidity of 60 percent, each cubic meter of air contains about 18 grams of water. If you can cool the air to 5 degrees, the air can only retain about 8 grams/cubic meter of water; the remaining 10 grams per cubic meter will condense as fog or droplets.”

We know:

Specific Heat (Air) = 1.01 kJ per kg per degree C
Mass (Air) = 1.2 kg per cubic metre


To cool 1 cubic metre of air by 25 degrees, we need 1.0 kJ x 1.2 kg x 25 deg C

= 30 kJ

To get 10 mL of water…

To meet Max’s modest estimate of 7000 litres per day, we need to collect 80 mL per second, or, cool 8 cubic metres of air by 25 degrees per second, so;

8 cubic metres x 30 kJ per second = 240 kiloWatts.

Unfortunately, the amount of kinetic energy in the same amount of wind is only about 0.1% of that…

KE = 1/2mv^2

mass = 8 cubic metres x Mass (Air) 1.2 kg = 9.6 kg

velocity^2 = 8 metres per second x 8 metres per second = 64


0.5 x 9.6 x 64 = 307.2 Watts = 0.3 kW

Here’s hoping 7 liters of water per day is never worth $43,000. Is the Whisson Windmill just an idea, or has one been built?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.