Another 27 million trees died in California last year due to the lingering effects of drought, according to new aerial survey data from the U.S. Forest Service. That brings the total number of trees killed statewide to a staggering 129 million since 2010. In a typical year, about one million trees die across California. But beginning in 2014, that number began ticking up as aerial surveyors with the U.S. Forest Service started to notice entire hillsides turning yellow, brown and orange.
Archive for date: December 12th, 2017
You are now in California and the U.S. category.
It’s official: 2017 is the deadliest and most destructive year on record for wildfires in California. Dry conditions, high temperatures, roaring winds and bone-dry trees and brush are all factors responsible for the devastation. But one underlying question is how much of a role has climate change played? “There is no singular cause for any real significant event,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “It’s usually a confluence of factors that are important. And in a lot of cases, global warming definitely plays a role and is one of those factors.”
Why is California burning? One answer is simple: California always burns. But this latest inferno — three wildfires eating at the hills in and around Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city — is frightening even for people who are accustomed to big burns. What’s more, it follows the state’s deadliest fire on record by only a few weeks.
December has been bone dry in California, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much wetter by the time the 2018 rolls around. Precipitation levels in Sacramento and most major California cities are below average for this time of year. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is just 37 percent of normal. The U.S. Drought Monitor says about one-third of California is either facing moderate drought conditions or is abnormally dry, with all of the dry areas lying south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Water conservation statewide dipped into single digits during October according to a report issued last week by the State Water Resources Control Board. The water board said on average Californians used 8.5 percent less water than in October 2013, the benchmark pre-drought year. Mandatory water conservation targets and penalties for excessive use were dropped this spring, and the conservation numbers have declined pretty steadily since then.
After 66 years of litigation and more than 50 years of settlement talks, the longest-running federal civil case in San Diego has ended. The Fallbrook Public Utility District board of directors voted unanimously Monday to end a water dispute with the U.S. government over rights to water that flows from the Santa Margarita River. “After eight years of my time here, and many more years of other people’s time before that, we are at the point where we have a final agreement with Camp Pendleton on the Santa Margarita,” the district’s acting general manager, Jack Bebee, told directors.
California’s dam inspectors appear to be doing their jobs well. Unfortunately, too many dam operators aren’t, and could be placing the public at risk. That’s the conclusion we reached after reading a report by The Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, we’ll be left with no choice except to invest in flood control and other water-related public works – including better maintaining the levees that keep our rivers in their channels and out of our homes.
It is always difficult to reflect back on a year and identify the most notable annual events on any given issue. Water is no different and perhaps more challenging. Progress in the water sector, for the most part, seems at times to move at a glacial pace with a few exceptions. As I look back on 2017, these three issues are worth highlighting.