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How California's Drought Affects the World
Can Man-Made Clouds Save Us From Drought?
An alarming study published in Nature Climate Change found that the Sierra Nevada mountains in California have almost no snowpack this year: the least amount on record for the area in over 500 years. This is not just bad news for skiers: most of the precipitation that falls in California comes from mountain snow that melts into drinking water. Water from the Sierras also generates electricity and provides one-third of all drinking water in California.
The implications of this extremely light snowpack have massive, wide-ranging effects. Researchers compared snowpack measurements taken over the last few decades and found this is the lightest snowpack in five centuries. The massive California drought is partially to blame, but it's been exacerbated by human-affected climate change. Columbia University bioclimatologist A. Park Williams from told the New York Times: "even though the chances of a drought like this were extremely unlikely in the past, in the future it will be more likely to occur because of rising temperatures contributing in the 8-to-27 percent drop in soil moisture in California."
85 percent of U.S. residents get water from public utilities replenished or fed by this water cycle. When people can't get water from dried-up rivers and streams to add to reservoirs or irrigate their fields, they go for aquifers. Earth's surface has pockets of water in it that have trickled down over the eons, and we're sucking it out at a rate faster than it can be replenished. Aquifer pumping causes the surface to drop: some groundwater is being pumped down 50 to 100 feet below previous historical lows, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Sierra Nevada Snowpack Is Virtually Gone; Water Content Now Is Only 5 Percent of Historic Average (CA.gov)
"The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found no snow whatsoever today during its manual survey for the media at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada. This was the first time in 75 years of early April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there."
California Drought Is Made Worse by Global Warming, Scientists Say (NY Times)
"Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent, scientists said."