I recently returned from a trip to the West Coast that included a little more than a week in California. What a glorious place: The Golden State. The towering Redwoods. The majestic mountains. The fertile valleys. The Pacific coast. The dazzling array of flowers. The yummy fruit.
But now our most populous state, the one filled with so many natural wonders, has changed its color from golden to the browns of dried out vegetation, withering under a blistering sun and an “exceptional drought” (one step more severe than “extreme”).
OK, the summers are always dry there. But in most years, the snow on the mountains melts, feeding the creeks that feed the rivers and watering the lakes, the farms and orchards and the reservoirs people count on for daily living. This year the flow has been reduced to a trickle.
Yes, we still swam in the unbelievably beautiful Yuba River. Yes, the creek on my friends’ land was still flowing enough so that their makeshift rock damn made a, crystal-clear, icy-cool, two-foot deep pool to relieve us from the 100-degree daytime temperature.
But many lakes are bone dry and even the Yuba and other mountain-fed rivers are rapidly contracting.
It’s hard not to blame climate change. And look at these facts, gleaned from a Google search:
- Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have very low water levels;
- California farmers, in the state that grows half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, are forced to leave unprecedented expanses of fields fallow;
- About 17 rural communities could soon run out of drinking water and politicians are pushing to undo laws that protect several endangered species.
Yet, “I’m pretty sure the severity of this thing is due to natural variability,” Richard Seager, a climate scientist who studies water issues at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, told the New York Times.
But even if the drought is not caused by a change in the climate, the days and nights are warmer than in past droughts, causing faster dehydration and putting more stress on trees and lesser plant life.
So is climate change the villain here? A good discussion of that in this New York Times article.
And this dramatic video from The Climate Reality Project helps put it into perspective and also gives you some things to do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7tntAdhJUY