California and Climate Change

Since I live in California, several headlines have caught my eye recently, “In California, Climate Change Is ‘Real, And It’s Already Here’” and “Global warming already having dramatic impacts in California, new report says“.

The new report is called, “Indicators of Climate Change in California and was just published (August 2013) by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). They’ve updated the 2009 report.

Key findings of the report per it’s press release are:

”  Temperatures: The state’s high, low and average temperatures are all rising, and extreme heat events also have increased in duration and frequency. The rate of warming has accelerated since the mid-1970s, and night time (minimum) temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as maximum (daytime) temperatures.

  Wildfires: The number of acres burned by wildfires has been increasing since 1950. The size, severity, duration and frequency of wildfires are greatly influenced by climate. The three largest fire years on record in California occurred in the last decade, and annual acreage burned since 2000 is almost twice that for the 1950-2000 period.

  Water: Spring snowmelt runoff has decreased, indicating warmer winter temperatures and more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow. Earlier and decreased runoff can reduce water supplies, even when overall rainfall remains the same. This trend could mean less water available for agriculture, the environment and a growing population.

  Coast and Ocean: A number of indicators reflect physical and biological changes in the ocean, impacting a range of marine species, including sea lions, seabirds and salmon. And data for Monterey Bay shows increased carbon dioxide levels in coastal waters, which can harm shell-forming organisms and have impacts throughout the marine food chain.

  Species Migration: Certain plants and animals have responded to habitat changes influenced by warming. For example, conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada have been moving upslope and certain small mammals in Yosemite National Park have moved to higher elevations compared to the early 1900s.”

California is one of the first states in the nation to compile its own set of indicators characterizing the multiple facets of climate change. While most reports on climate change present future scenarios or projections, this report provides a retrospective account of impacts from climate change that have already occurred.”

Download the “Report Summary” for a clear picture of what’s happening in California.






The graphic above is the current drought conditions for California. As you can see, there is no place in the state that is not experiencing some problem and most of the state is “severe” or higher.


CAL FIRE – Fire Season 2013

“With one of the driest winters on record, California’s 2013 fire season has resulted in a very active season. In May, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the year’s last snow survey, which showed the snowpack at only 17 percent of normal. The lack of winter rains has resulted in dry conditions across the state leading to a number of unseasonably large wildfires early in the year and a continued trend of above normal fire activity.”


In my birding along the Mendocino Coast I’ve noticed that several waterways that hit the ocean have decreased flows or have dried up. They include Inglenook, Fenn, and Hare Creeks. The Navarro River is landlocked. The Noyo River is experiencing decreased flows which is reflected in this call to conserve water by the City of Fort Bragg’s City Manager:

“Please Conserve Water. Last winter’s paltry rainfall is taking its toll on the City’s water sources. Since late July, the City has been on a “restricted pumping regimen” at its Noyo River water diversion. Once flows in the river drop below 3 cubic feet per second, the City only diverts water from the river when the tides are above 2 feet in height. At this time, we are relying heavily on our two other water sources (Newman Gulch and Waterfall Gulch) and flows are continuing to decline across the board. The City is hoping to avoid declaration of a water emergency and imposition of mandatory conservation measures. We request that all businesses and residents take immediate voluntary actions to reduce water consumption. Conservation measures include: reducing landscape irrigation; refraining from washing sidewalks, driveways and buildings; using shut-off mechanisms on hoses; only serving water to restaurant patrons upon request; etc.”

The Community of Mendocino is in a “stage two” water conservation effort which requests a 15% reduction in normal water use. 
Since I’ve only lived here for eight years I can’t say how common this is but I don’t like the trend.
Good news for California. The Sierra Club just publish their list of the “Ten Coolest Schools”. The University of Connecticut took first place but California had four of the top ten.
 “Four of the schools in the top 10 are in California: the University of California, Irvine, in third place, the University of California, Davis, in fourth, Stanford University at No. 7 and the University of California, Santa Barbara, at No. 10.
The University of California campuses traditionally fare well in the rankings, Andrews said, noting that last year, UC Davis took first place. The system has a sustainability initiative, she said.

“It’s also just being in California,” Andrews said. “The students who go there and the faculty members that go there and the culture that surrounds it is all about sustainability, in a way that you don’t see as much in other states.”

UC Irvine has installed enough solar panels on campus to generate power equivalent to running 500 homes for a year, she said. Some of those are part of a research project for engineering students examining the impact of renewable power on the grid, said Richard Demerjian, director of environmental planning and sustainability. There also are photovoltaics in a parking lot that are used in part to recharge electric vehicles, and there is battery storage, he said.

In addition, the school has a 19-megawatt natural gas cogeneration facility that uses what would be waste heat and turns it into electricity or heat for buildings. Since 2009, UC Irvine has saved 20 million kilowatts of electricity each year, Andrews said.

Every new building has to be certified at least Silver under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for energy efficiency. Demerjian said that there are eight LEED Gold and nine LEED Platinum buildings. The school also encourages students to participate in meatless Mondays.

It comes in part out of a drive by students to have the school president’s office adopt far-reaching green goals back in 2005, Demerjian said. Those were updated in 2007.

UC Davis won kudos for its focus on green agriculture that uses less water, Andrews said. It also has housing for faculty and students that uses zero net energy.

Stanford University has one of the most plentiful offerings of classes with an ecological focus, with at least 700 taught by 130 professors and spanning 40 departments, Andrews said. In addition, there are at least 36 student clubs with green themes.

UC Santa Barbara has parking lots crammed full of bicycles, as 94 percent of students take transportation other than cars, Andrews said. Nearly half of academic departments offer classes with a sustainability focus, she said. And the school diverts three-fourths of waste to recycling or compost, one of the highest levels achieved among colleges.” 

The above quotes are taken from Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter for ClimateWire.

Other good news is that, “The average Californian uses about 33 percent less electricity at home than the average American in the rest of the country.” You can read the why that is here.

Another strange story is that the Redwoods along the California Coast are growing faster. Not sure why.

This has gotten too long so I’ll end it here. But you can see that California and climate change are paired together.


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