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Weather extremes harm all sides

While we’re freezing out here in the midwest, and expecting lots of snow, ChasCPeterson is concerned about what’s going on out west.

It’s going to be a grim year out here in the Mojave Desert. The perennials are already crispy and can only get crispier. We’re already past the winter-rain window that would bring annuals. That means no food for tortoises, so no protein, no growth, low juvenile survivorship, decreased reproduction, and if it doesn’t rain this summer, adult mortality too. Nothing for jackrabbits and K-rats to eat means fewer jackrabbits and K-rats, which means in turn that coyotes will switch to digging up tortoises to eat. Crispy perennials and no annuals mean no insects, and therefore no lizards. No lizards or K-rats is bad for snakes. No lizards or snakes is bad for roadrunners and raptors. No bugs is bad for bats and birds; no seeds bad for other birds.

Drought is bad for west-coast humans, but it means death for the ecosystems that belong here.

There’s nothing bad that can’t be made worse! Governor Jerry Brown has suspended the California Environmental Quality Act to make more water available for California’s agriculture and people, which means that not only are those ecosystems strained by the weather, but the humans have just declared open season on what few resources they have left.

Comments

  1. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Well, hell! And up north, Prime Minister Harper has suspended environmental protection for any freshwater fish if it interferes with industry and habitat protection for all of them. The government literally trashed libraries of historical environmental information and research and is cutting $100 million from the Department of Fisheries. Because they’ve been objecting to what he’s doing, I surmise.

  2. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Pressure from donors? Lack of funds because of stupid tax-limiting laws? Although I don’t see why they can’t just enforce the traffic laws until funding is adequate. You don’t want to pay more taxes? Don’t speed.

  3. David Wilford says

    Given the following data, Brown’s decision to declare a drought emergency isn’t surprising:

    The northern Sierra has a snowpack that’s only 8% of normal for this date, according to the latest measurements released Thursday from the California Department of Water Resources. The central Sierra is at 16% of normal; the southern Sierra at 22%. The mountain snowpack, while a boon for Lake Tahoe ski resorts, also acts like a reservoir during winter and early spring, providing the state with its biggest and most reliable water supply.

    Brown is urging voluntary water conservation to the tune of a 20% reduction. But he stopped short of saying such a reduction should be mandatory — for now, at least.

    “We ought to be ready for a long, continuous, persistent effort,” including the possibility of drinking-water shortages, he said. “I think the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits, that nature has its boundaries.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2014/01/17/california-drought-emergency/4581761/

    It looks like it’ll be a good idea to double the size of the veggie garden this year.

  4. says

    @Caine -

    I’m not sure if he’s doing it for any other reason than the central coast farmers are really, really scared right now. I can’t speak to if suspending the CEQA was the only way to ensure farmers get the water they need, but I don’t think Jerry B is trying to screw over the environment (I really should know more about it, and I’m going to try and research if there were other viable options).

    Then again, water has always been a hot topic in California, especially of late. Driving down the I-5 corridor, there are tons of “Stop Pelosi and the Congress Created Drought”. The farmers in California are already not on the Dems side, so I don’t know why Brown would be pandering to them, he’ll never get their vote.

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/California-drought-Jerry-Brown-declares-5152625.php

    I say stop giving all the water to LA*. /ducks

    *DISCLAIMER: I’m a nor\central California transplant, born and raised in Southern California. I do think people in SoCal are better than the average bear at water conservation these days, but it’s still a desert-turned-to-Oasis.

  5. says

    JJ831:

    Then again, water has always been a hot topic in California

    Yes, I know, I’m a native SoCalifornian, and lived there most of my life. I have relatives who farm in Reedley, too.

    I can’t interpret what Brown is doing as anything other than being actively harmful. I expect certain interests have him handily stuffed in their pocket. If Brown is trying to help farmers, he doesn’t have any excuse to do it this way, it’s not as if he’s ignorant of environmental effects and issues. *sigh* I remember, about a hundred years ago, when Brown was considered to be one of the good guys.

  6. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    People can move; critters can’t. Perhaps the government should be urging citizens to move to damper areas of the country, because they are not natural in deserts. To start with, can they restrict new-home building? Limit the intrusion of developers into fragile or flammable areas? Actually shift the cost of supplying water from the Great Public Purse to the subdivision?

  7. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The increased likelihood of drought is one of the reasons why my wife and I decided not to head back west when we retire. The climate models pretty robustly show that the west and southwest of the country are pretty much fucked, and that by mid century, much of the southeast US will be close to uninhabitable at least 3 months out of the year.

    Oh well, civilization was nice while it lasted.

  8. says

    A_Ray:

    The climate models pretty robustly show that the west and southwest of the country are pretty much fucked, and that by mid century, much of the southeast US will be close to uninhabitable at least 3 months out of the year.

    That’s terrible. Truly terrible.

  9. raven says

    It is pretty spooky in California right now.

    1. Record heat wave in the bay area. It was in the 70′s. That is nice and all but this is…January. There are now a few wildfires around. In January. WTH.

    2. This is also a record driest year. In a state that is mostly pretty dry already. Everywhere you look, it just looks like a drought. Dry lawns, dusty flower beds, stressed vegetation.

    3. We are getting past the rainy season with no rain. There is always the possibility that a few spring storms could turn things around, sort of. They can happen. If they don’t, things aren’t looking so good.

    What we are seeing now is 38 million people, a lot of agriculture, and a dry state getting drier and…things are hitting the wall. The Great California Water War has been going on for 100 years. This is going to be a huge year for it.

  10. raven says

    weatherchannel.com

    LOS ANGELES — Large swaths of California remained at risk for wildfires Wednesday as dry and windy weather conditions persisted.

    Red flag warnings for critical fire weather conditions were posted from Santa Barbara County south through Los Angeles to the U.S.-Mexico border, along the spine of the Sierra Nevada, and in areas east and north of San Francisco Bay. etc..

    Red flag fire warnings aren’t unusual. But they are unusual in January. This week there were at least 3 wildfires, two in Socal, one in the bay area.

    The three wettest months are December, January, and February. There hasn’t been much rain in the first two months. February, who knows? You can imagine what it will be like in the summer if there isn’t any spring rains.

  11. eigenperson says

    The situation in California is a bona fide disaster. This has been obvious for many weeks. It is very confusing to me that the news media went berserk over a brief cold snap in the East, while a large portion of the West is in the middle of experiencing drought’s answer to Katrina and there is not a peep.

    Perhaps when we finally get some national attention it will force Jerry Brown to do the right thing.

  12. stripeycat says

    Raven

    There are now a few wildfires around. In January. WTH.

    When I was still in school, there was one particularly dry, cold winter that saw fires on the moors in January/February. This normally only happens during bad summer droughts. That was very scary, even in Cornwall, where we knew the rain would return sooner or later, and the fires only have small areas that will burn at all. In a semi-arid, seasonally wet climate it must be terrifying to realise you’ve lost the rain-window for a full year, and the fires could spread for miles.

    Also, I remember how long it took for the burnt vegetation to recover, even with careful management and a return to normal weather. There were lasting impacts on individual SSSIs and species. On a larger scale it would have been a complete disaster.

    This is really scary – I’m up at 4am because I can’t sleep, and I doubt I will at all after this.

  13. randay says

    Having grown up and gone to college in California, I know that there has always been a water controversy. Central Valley farmers have long been subsidized and pay about one-tenth of what city residents pay. Now some farmers are trying to sell their water “rights” for 10 times more than they cost them. This is a crisis that was waiting to happen.

  14. carlie says

    What is the real sticking point with desalinizing seawater? California is coastal, after all. If we could only crack that nut in a sound and fairly inexpensive way*, that could take care of a lot. For a couple hundred years, that is.

    *no, I don’t know where we’d put all the salt.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    *no, I don’t know where we’d put all the salt.

    Since reverse osmosis is used to remove the salt, the highly salty retentate is pumped back into the ocean. We use that technology at work to convert Lake Michigan water into USP Purified water.

  16. carlie says

    Given how hot it’s getting in the southwest, I wonder if passive solar there might not be enough to allow for some amount of distilling without as much energy input.