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1 .This is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Christopher Intagliata. Got a minute?

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2 .California's been in the grips of a record-setting drought since 2012.

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3 .But don't just blame a lack of precipitation.

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4 ."It's nothing exceptional in the context of the last 1000 years.

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5 .However, higher temperatures, this is the feature of this drought."

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6 .Soumaya Belmecheri, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona.

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7 .She and her colleagues used two different sets of historic tree ring records to reconstruct 500 years of climate history:

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8 .blue oak tree rings as a proxy for winter precipitation, and another set of rings from a variety of trees, as a proxy for winter temperatures.

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9 .The tree ring data made it possible to model Sierra Nevada snowpack going back to the year 1500.

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10 .And the researchers found that today's snowpack is just five percent of its average level over the last five centuries.

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11 .The finding is in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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12 .Belmecheri says that the decline in snowpack is a big deal in a place like California, with its Mediterranean-like climate.

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13 ."You can think about it like a water bank that can be used later in the spring and the summer when it melts."

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14 .But since temperatures don't look to be on a downturn, she says we should not necessarily focus on filling that snow "bank" anymore, perhaps we should just change banks.

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15 ."Maybe snowpack in the Sierra Nevada will no longer be a reliable source of water.

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16 .So maybe a system that is more resilient to this type of drought should be thought of and designed and put in place, including maybe changing where the water is captured.

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17 .If it's going to rain more than snow in the future, maybe we should capture that rain."

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18 .And tomorrow's rains, she says, may not fall where today's reservoirs are.

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19 .Something for policymakers in California to think about, if they want to keep their state above water.

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20 .Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Christopher Intagliata.

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