California Drought May Be Permanent
Despite relief from El Nino, drought may be a regular occurrence for Golden State residents, according to government officials.
California loosened some water restrictions this week but also made some conservation rules permanent, reacting to a crippling four-year drought. Despite significant gains made by El Nino, the state wasn't expected to get back to pre-drought levels and it hasn't.
A report from Wired today makes the case that the drought may, in fact, be here to stay:
"In California, drought is a but a geographic construct. A statewide network of reservoirs, canals, pipes, and pumps connect the dry places to the wet. 'We import from Northern California and the Colorado River, and we saw an improvement in supply conditions, particularly up north, that allows us to ease restrictions on our allocation,' says Bob Muir, spokesperson for the agency. Who needs rain when you've got plumbing?"
The Municipal Water District of Southern California has eased water restrictions for the 19 million residents in California's largest urban district, Wired reported. Meanwhile, the "entire Municipal Water District is in either Extreme or Exceptional Drought. Those are technical terms, by the way, defined by a government agency. They mean a region's precipitation, streamflow, reservoir storage, and soil moisture are in the 1 to 5 percent ranges of normal."
California Gov. Jerry Brown called drought in the state "a regular occurrence" this week in a press release. "California droughts are expected to be more frequent and persistent, as warmer winter temperatures driven by climate change reduce water held in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and result in drier soil conditions."
"Recognizing these new conditions, the executive order directs permanent changes to use water more wisely and efficiently, and prepare for more frequent, persistent periods of limited supply."
Snowpack rebounded this year, though at the point in most of the state it's half of what's normal -- or less, especially in the southern part of the state, according to California's Department of Water Resources. Environmentalists warned that it's not yet time to open up the taps.
"I'm not opposed to giving districts more leeway in determining what they do," Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, told Wired. "But I do worry that this is too soon to be easing up on the conservation and efficiency measures that have just barely been put in place over the past couple of years."
You've heard a lot about how human-driven climate change will lead to hotter temperatures, cause sea levels to rise and make storms more intense. But it's projected to have plenty of other unpleasant and even disastrous effects as well. Here are 10 of them. Scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to increased evaporation of the Great Lakes' water, and precipitation won't make up the difference. That means we're likely to see declines in water levels over the next century, and one study predicts they may drop as much as 8 feet.
Thanks to climate change, jumbo-sized ragweed plants will spew out more pollen for a longer, more miserable allergy season.
By altering the wild environment, climate change makes it easier for newly mutated microbes to jump between species, and it's likely that as a result, diseases will emerge and spread across the globe even more rapidly.
A recent Nature article reported that male Australian central bearded dragons have been growing female genitalia because of rising temperatures, a phenomenon that had not previously been observed in that species.
Rising sea levels are wiping out beaches all over the world already. Importing fresh sand and building them up again is only a temporary solution. To make matters worse, there's currently a sand shortage, due to demand from fracking, glass and cement making.
Bark beetles are eating old growth forests, because the winters aren't cold enough to kill them off. So more trees like this American Elm will die.
Warmer temperatures mean there will be more water vapor trapped in the atmosphere, leading to more lightning. A University of California-Berkeley study predicts that lightning strikes will increase by about 12 percent for every degree Celsius gained.
Wine grape harvests are being hurt. Regions that have historically supplied the world’s best wine will no longer be hospitable climates to grow wine grapes, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund and others.
Coffee flavor depends upon really narrow conditions of temperature and moisture, and climate change is going to wreak havoc with that. Worse yet, as coffee growing regions become warmer, pests that couldn't survive in the past will ravage the crops. This is already being seen in Costa Rica, India and Ethiopia, which have experienced sharp declines in crop yields.
Scientists say that as ice sheets and glaciers melt, the weight that's removed from the Earth's crust changes the stresses upon volcanoes. That unloading effect can trigger eruptions.