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This Quiz Makes The California Drought Even Scarier Than It Already Is

California's current drought is certainly historic. But how historic is it?

Posted on April 9, 2015, at 4:05 p.m. ET

Scientists can use variations in the thickness of ancient tree rings to reconstruct past environmental conditions.

The width of the ring is controlled by temperature and precipitation.
Daniel Griffin / University of Arizona

The width of the ring is controlled by temperature and precipitation.

A group of scientists did that for California.

They created a record much larger than the kind instruments can provide.
NOAA / Via droughtmonitor.unl.edu

They created a record much larger than the kind instruments can provide.

Without seeing their results, see if you can place the current drought in its proper historical context.

Mark Ralston / Getty Images

Did the last comparable California drought occur before or after these historic events?

  1. MTV / Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the Kanye interruption.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Kanye interruption.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Kanye interruption.

    This infamous Kanye interruption happened on Sept. 13, 2009.

  2. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the first satellite was launched into space.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no drought as severe as the current one in the time since the launch of the first satellite into orbit.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no drought as severe as the current one in the time since the launch of the first satellite into orbit.

    The Soviets launched Sputnik 1 on Oct. 4, 1957, marking the beginning of the Space Age.

  3. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since Antarctica was first sighted.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the first sighting of Antarctica.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the first sighting of Antarctica.

    The first sighting of the Antarctic Peninsula was likely made by Nathaniel Palmer between 1820 and 1821. Its existence had been hypothesized since ancient times.

  4. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since Macbeth was first performed.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Macbeth was first performed.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Macbeth was first performed.

    Most historians think Shakespeare's Macbeth was first performed in 1606.

  5. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the Protestant Reformation began.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Protestant Reformation began.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Protestant Reformation began.

    Many historians consider Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of the Castle Church, to be the start of the Protestant Reformation.

  6. Martin St-Amant / Via en.wikipedia.org
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since Machu Picchu was built.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Machu Picchu was built.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Machu Picchu was built.

    Machu Picchu was likely built during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui from 1438-1471.

  7. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the "Little Ice Age" began.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Little Ice Age began.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Little Ice Age began.

    This historic cold period occurred from around 1300 to 1850.

  8. soilse / Via en.wikipedia.org
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the oldest university was founded.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the oldest university in existence was founded.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the oldest university in existence was founded.

    The University of Bologna considers its founding date to be 1088.

  9. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the Battle of Hastings was fought.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Battle of Hastings was fought.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Battle of Hastings was fought.

    The Battle of Hastings happened on Oct. 14, 1066, and marked the beginning of Norman rule over England.

  10. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since Macbeth began his reign.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Macbeth (the inspiration for Shakespeare's play) began his rule.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Macbeth (the inspiration for Shakespeare's play) began his rule.

    Macbeth, King of Scots, began his rule in 1040.

  11. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since al-Sufi published his book.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since al-Sufi's astronomical text was published.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since al-Sufi's astronomical text was published.

    This important scientific work was published around 964.

  12. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since the Five Dynasties period began.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Five Dynasties period began in China.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since the Five Dynasties period began in China.

    This tumultuous period happened between 907 and 960, when five dynasties followed each other in quick succession in North China and 10 regimes ruled separate regions of South China.

  13. Alex Kasprak for BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    An equally severe drought has occurred in California in the time since Charlemagne became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Charlemagne was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There has been no California drought as severe as the current one in the time since Charlemagne was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor.

    Charlemagne was crowned the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the year 800.

800 A.D. is as far back as their tree ring data goes.

Griffin and Anchukaitis, 2014 / Via onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Within that whole record, there has not been a California drought as severe as the current one, the scientists say.

Peripitus / Via commons.wikimedia.org

As each of the above events happened on or after 800 A.D., that means that they all must have happened more recently than the last comparable drought in California.

NASA / Rhett A. Butler / Via blogs.kqed.org

So yeah. It is no exaggeration to say that the current drought is unprecedented.

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