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Is California experiencing an overdue drought?

Posted on February 2nd, 2014 in Climage Change,Environment by Robert Miller

A once submerged car in the Almaden Reservoir in California From the NYT

You have probably heard about the serious drought conditions threatening the West, with the epicenter in California. If not, the NYT today has a front page article on the drought problem which now threatens the drinking water supply for 40,000 rural residents who could run out of water in 60 to 120 days, without some form of moisture reprieve; much of the rest of  California is also facing a serious water shortage problem that shows no sign of letting up. When a movie in Hollywood ended recently, patrons came out to find it was raining as they stood and clapped at the all too infrequent event. The NYT site has a slide show that reveals the serious nature of the drought. “We are on track for having the worst drought in 500 years,” said B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.  Farmers are especially impacted as are medical marijuana growers, because each marijuana plant requires 6 gallons of water per day. According to California Governor Jerry Brown, the blame game has already started as people assume some individuals or a poorly run government agency must be responsible for the water shortage.

John Wesley Powell’s warnings, that West beyond the 100th meridian (in Texas) did not have enough rainfall for successful farming, has had its impact delayed; he didn’t foresee the man made diversion of the Colorado River or the existence of aquifers. However, these sources of water are now fully subscribed and/or seriously depleted in some areas with global climate change  threatening to remove more moisture from the soil, because warmer air can hold more moisture and thus removes it from the already arid conditions of the land. We are having a very rich snow year here in Minnesota and I can’t help but think some of the excessive moisture we have experienced was picked up by the warm atmosphere from the desert regions of the West and visited us in the form of more snow.

No one knows when this drought might be over, but already people have changed their living habits to conserve water and indications for the near future are that water-using habits will have to change drastically to insure drinking water access for each home. But so far, one has the impression that residents living in the West are no more concerned about global climate change, which makes those conditions worse, than those living in other parts of the country who are less threatened at the moment by water shortage.


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