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California Drought: Study Sees Dying Wildlife, Bigger Fires

The carcasses of salmon, trout and more than a dozen other newly extinct native species lie in dry streambeds around California.

Exhausted firefighters in the Sierra Nevada battle some of the biggest wildfires they've ever seen. And in Central Valley farm towns, more and more parents hear the squeal of empty pipes when they turn on water taps to cook dinner.

California ‘Dead Pools’ Appear as Severe Drought Worsens 2:26

A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California nonprofit think-tank paints that distressing picture of California for the next two years if the state's driest four years on record stretches further into the future.

Written by water and watershed experts working at the policy center, at the University of California, Davis, and elsewhere, the report urges California to do more now to deal with what researchers project to be the biggest drought crises of 2016 and 2017 — crashing wildlife populations, raging wildfires and more and more poor rural communities running out of water entirely.

Read More: California Valley Land Sinking Faster as Groundwater is Pumped

A separate study published Thursday in the journal of the American Geophysical Union warns that climate change is making drought the new normal in California.

By the 2060s, climate models show California in a condition of semi-permanent drought, broken only by short, hard rains, researchers said.

Already, higher temperatures from climate change have made the current drought at least 15 percent worse, they said.