Articles | Volume 25, issue 6
Research article
01 Jul 2021
Research article |  | 01 Jul 2021

Drought onset and propagation into soil moisture and grassland vegetation responses during the 2012–2019 major drought in Southern California

Maria Magdalena Warter, Michael Bliss Singer, Mark O. Cuthbert, Dar Roberts, Kelly K. Caylor, Romy Sabathier, and John Stella

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Cited articles

Abatzoglou, J. T. and Williams, A. P.: Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests, P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 113, 11770–11775,, 2016. 
Aghakouchak, A., Ragno, E., and Love, C.: Projected Changes in Californias Precipitation Intensity-Duration-Frequency Curves, in: California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment, California Energy Commission, CA, USA, p. 32, 2018. 
Allen, R. G., Pereira, L. S., Raes, D., and Smith, M.: FAO Irrigation and Crop evapotranspiration (Guidelines for computing crop water requirements), Drainage Paper No. 56, available at: (last access: 1 April 2021), 1998. 
Asner, G. P., Brodrick, P. G., Anderson, C. B., Vaughn, N., Knapp, D. E., and Martin, R. E.: Progressive forest canopy water loss during the 2012–2015 California drought, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 113, E249–E255,, 2016. 
Ault, T. R., Mankin, J. S., Cook, B. I., and Smerdon, J. E.: Relative impacts of mitigation, temperature, and precipitation on 21st-century megadrought risk in the American Southwest, Sci. Adv., 2, 1–9,, 2016. 
Short summary
Intensified drying of soil and grassland vegetation is raising the impact of fire severity and extent in Southern California. While browned grassland is a common sight during the dry season, this study has shown that there is a pronounced shift in the timing of senescence, due to changing climate conditions favoring milder winter temperatures and increased precipitation variability. Vegetation may be limited in its ability to adapt to these shifts, as drought periods become more frequent.