Various scientists have been crusading for climate change for many years, and its consequences are now manifesting in California. The Golden State, so-called because of the golden hue of its fields during the dry summer months, is facing extraordinary problems that cannot be attributed to normal weather changes.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack provides up to 80% of California’s water. However, in recent years, more precipitation has fallen in the form of rain rather than snow. This has a net effect on the increased amount of surface runoff ending up in the ocean. Less snow in the mountains results in the snowpack shrinking hence less water is available in the summer when the snow melts.
High temperatures coupled with severe drought has worsened the wildfires in the state. For instance, California experienced its worst wildfire in 2014 claiming at least 14 lives and 300 missing. In addition, the high precipitation encourages the bush growth which is, in turn, dried out by severe drought providing a lot of fuel for wildfires.
The majority of California’s population resides along the coastline enjoying the mild climate created by the ocean currents and coastal winds. The climate change from 1900 to 2014 has resulted in the sea level rising by approximately seven inches. What is more, the San Joachim/Sacramento River Delta is experiencing the encroachment of saltwater, changes in temperature and runoff, which endangers the fragile ecology of the West Coast and the essential water infrastructure. The saline water is also seeping into the aquifers contaminating the underground water which is emerging as the primary source of water during droughts.
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Christian-Smith J, Levy M, Gleick PH. Maladaptation to drought: A case report from California. Sustain Sci, 2014.