How Dry is it?

The title of the article was, “Drought Now Covers 100% of California“.

“California’s drought has finished its conquest of the state: 100 percent of the land here is now in a drought condition, and 96 percent of it is in a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought.

This week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the USDM that 100 percent of California was in moderate to exceptional drought,” writes NOAA’s Richard Heim in a drought monitoring report.

It’s gotten this bad, despite March’s decent rains…And the state’s hydrological conditions might be worse than they look here. Snowpack serves as a natural reservoir, allowing humans to capture the runoff during the long California dry season. If it’s warmer, though, more precipitation falls as rain, instead of snow, eliminating the storage in the mountains.

And that’s what’s happening this year. While precipitation in the northern Sierras is running at 60 percent of normal, the snowpack is sitting at 13 percent of normal in the northern Sierras and 22 percent statewide. It’s melting quickly, too, thanks to hotter than normal temperatures.”

Just this last week we had a series of weak rainstorms come through the area. Thursday I was doing a Virgin Creek SOS Survey and got caught in some rain. I even heard on the TV that a late “winter” blast was going to hit the mountains. But as I write this on a late April “Spring” day temperatures will be 10 to 20 degrees higher than normal all along the West Coast of the United States.

This AccuWeather story states, “As an offshore wind continues over California and along much of the West Coast, temperatures will continue to rise through Thursday and will increase the risk of wildfires…In portions of Southern California, gusty winds, known as Santa Anas, will raise the fire danger.

“The combination of very low humidity, heat, sunshine and wind can cause any fire that gets started to spread rapidly through dry brush and potentially into populated areas,” Clark said.

Winds can gust between 40 and 50 mph in canyons aligned in a southwest to northeast fashion into Wednesday night into Thursday.

Northeast winds will carry any smoke from inland fires toward the coast and will tend to push fires to the south and west.

“A fire has broken out in Day Canyon, in the San Bernardino National Forest just north of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Wednesday midday and was spreading rapidly,” Clark said.”

After Dry Winter In California, Preparations Begin For Harsh Wildfire Season“. That’s the headline for this ThinkProgress article.

“And with the latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released on Thursday showing the drought persisting or intensifying throughout the state until August, precipitation figures will continue to trend negatively. One area where figures will grow is wildfires, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is already warning that it will be a long and challenging fire season. And its not like its been easy so far — between January 1 and April 5, Cal Fire responded to approximately 900 wildfires, around triple the average for that period.

With that in mind, Cal Fire hired nearly 100 additional seasonal firefighters to be stationed in the north and middle part of the state starting this week.”

Gov. Jerry Brown ramps up drought action with emergency declaration.” 

 — Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a sweeping emergency drought proclamation, cutting red tape for a variety of government functions to help water agencies find new supplies, and to press the public to use water carefully.

“I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible,” Brown said in a statement. “The driest months are still to come in California and extreme drought conditions will get worse.”

California’s draught is already causing tensions to rise between various interests here in the state. It is also causing price increases for many commodities raised or grown in the Central Valley. This New York Times article outlines many of these issues.

“Heading into the third year of a prolonged drought, the Allens are among the many California farmers forced to make dire choices that could leave as much as 800,000 acres, or about 7 percent of the state’s cropland, fallow. While some think that estimate may be inflated so early in the planting season, the consensus is that drier and drier seasons are on the horizon.

A recent report on prospective planting from the federal Department of Agriculture forecast a 20 percent decline in California’s rice crop and a 35 percent decline in cotton this year from last year’s crop.”

“Anywhere between one-third and one-half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are grown in California, meaning Americans are facing higher prices on melons, broccoli, baby greens, almonds and other popular crops.

Last year, when growers struggled with low water allocations from the state’s two largest water systems, the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, vegetable prices were 3 percent higher and fruits cost 2 percent more, according to the agricultural department. It expects similar price increases this year.”

Drought Is Driving Beef Prices To All-New Highs.” That’s the subject of this ThinkProgress article.

“Years of sometimes record-setting dry spells have punished the western and southern United States recently, cutting down crops like hay and corn that serve as cattle feed. That’s driven up the costs of raising and maintaining cattle herds, so ranchers spent the last few years selling off and slaughtering more cows than usual in order to keep their finances stable.”

The practical results of this generates headlines like, “Drought Causes Chipotle To Increase Its Steak Prices.”  This might actually be a good thing. Reduced amounts of cattle and the eating of beef will reduce the effects of climate change. 

Is there any sign of “good” news for California and the Southwest? This article titled, “Four Bad Things We Learned About The Epic California Drought This Week“, ended with this statement, “The only bright spot in recent news is that we still appear headed towards an El Niño, which “may suggest wet conditions in California later this year.” Of course, an El Niño typically means dangerously extreme weather in other parts of the world — especially if it turns out to be a super El Niño as some forecast.”

I plan to discuss El Niños in a later post I will let you decide if an El Niño event will be a good thing.

El Niños–how do you put that wavy thing over the “n” on an Ipad?

Edited: Just found this blog by Robert Keiffer called,”Drought & Livestock equals extra feed needed“. Bob is the “Center Superintendent” at Hopland Research & Extension Center here in Mendocino. He’s also one of the long time Mendocino bird record keepers. I just wanted to add a local flavor to this post. I birded the Hopland REC with Chuck Vaughn last year during my “green” year. You can read about it here.

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