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La Niña Responsible for Megadroughts in North and South America, Study Finds

La Niña, the climate event that causes water to be colder than normal in the eastern Pacific, has now been shown by new research released Monday to be responsible for simultaneous megadroughts in the North and South American Southwest over the past 1,000 years.

Megadroughts are extended periods of drought that last at least 20 years. In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers found that these megadroughts occurred simultaneously in the North American and South American Southwest “regularly” and often during a La Niña event.

Drought, Water Supply and Climate Change in the San Diego Region

An update on San Diego’s water supply during the current drought, and how climate change affects regional weather, was the main focus of a recent event sponsored by several organizations.

The Citizens Water Academy, Leaders 20/20 and San Diego Green Drinks hosted a lunch and learn session August 17 that also provided details on how weather and climate impacts water supplies, and how prepared the San Diego region is for drought impacts.

Climate Change-drought-San Vicente Reservoir in San Diego County

Drought, Water Supply and Climate Change in the San Diego Region

An update on San Diego’s water supply during the current drought, and how climate change affects regional weather, was the main focus of a recent event sponsored by several organizations.

The Citizens Water Academy, Leaders 20/20 and San Diego Green Drinks hosted a lunch and learn session August 17 that also provided details on how weather and climate impacts water supplies, and how prepared the San Diego region is for drought impacts.

San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Warning Coordination Meteorologist Alex Tardy spoke to nearly 90 participants via Zoom.

Climate change impacts and drought

Tardy kicked off the event with an overview of how climate change and drought impact regional weather conditions, and what this means for the region’s water supplies.

“Just here in Southern California, we have extreme heat, extreme precipitation and extreme drought,” said Tardy. “In talking about climate and climate extremes, we are not just talking about the obvious ones like temperature, we are also talking about other impacts like more intense storms, more frequent return of droughts and less normalcy.”

His presentation included highlights of how the past several years have included multiple weather extremes, ranging from wettest single days on record to the hottest and driest years. These included precipitation extremes of varying types and impacts, many of which were fueled by El Niño and La Niña weather patterns. Lack of precipitation and increased evaporation have led to record low water supplies in many reservoirs.

Regional drought preparedness

Kerl spoke about drought concerns throughout the Southwest, which include reduced local water supplies, reduced state supplies and Colorado River supply concerns. Governor Gavin Newsom has asked for voluntary 15% reductions in water use and commonsense conservation measures, which are habits already hard-wired in most San Diego County residents.

“The really good news here in our community is that we are prepared for multiple-year droughts – we have sufficient supplies for 2021, and that’s what water bills go to pay for: safe and reliable supplies,” said Kerl. “It’s also important to note that residents and businesses are hard-wired to conserve – the practices are ingrained in the community. Today we use 50% less per capita per day than we did 30 years ago.”

Kerl also highlighted that our region’s diverse water supplies include drought-resistant sources such as desalinated water, and that the San Diego region is prepared and has enough supplies for multiple dry years.

weather extremes in Southern California

Throughout recent years, Southern California has experienced different types of weather extremes that have impacts on water supplies. Photo: Alex Tardy, NOAA/NWS.

Citizens Water Academy

The Citizens Water Academy provides an opportunity for emerging leaders and professionals in the San Diego region to learn about critical projects and programs related to water. Through the academy, the Water Authority seeks to expand and sustain a diverse network of influencers who are willing to serve as ambassadors on water issues and expand knowledge about the region’s water industry. To learn more, go to sdcwa.org/in-the-community/citizens-water-academy.

Leaders 20/20 is a young professionals network that aims to drive civic engagement to ensure a high quality of life in the San Diego region. Leaders 20/20 provides education on important issues affecting the environment and economy and helps professionals build connections to industry leaders: sandiego.edu/soles/hub-nonprofit/initiatives/leaders-2020.php.

San Diego Green Drinks is a social networking group of professionals in the environmental field who attend events to meet industry professionals, find employment or employees, develop new ideas, discuss issues and solve problems.

Watch a recording of the event, starting with Alex Tardy: https://bit.ly/385EGCP

California Enacted a Groundwater Law 7 Years Ago. But Wells Are Still Drying Up — and the Threat is Spreading

Kelly O’Brien’s drinking water well had been in its death throes for days before its pump finally gave out over Memorial Day weekend.

It wasn’t a quiet death at O’Brien’s home in Glenn County, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Spigots rattled. Faucets sputtered. The drinking water turned rusty with sediment. In the end, two houses, three adults, three children, two horses, four dogs and a couple of cats on her five acres of land were all left with no water for their sinks, showers, laundry, troughs and water bowls.

As extreme drought spread across the state, O’Brien feared that the water underneath her property had sunk so low that it was out of the reach of her well.

What is La Niña? The Climate Pattern – and How it Affects Our Weather – Explained

So what exactly is La Niña?

The La Niña climate pattern is a natural cycle marked by cooler-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific Ocean. It is one of the main drivers of weather in the United States and around the world, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring.

It’s the opposite to the more well-known El Niño, which occurs when Pacific ocean water is warmer than average.

Drought-Stricken California Hasn’t Mandated Statewide Water Restrictions. Here’s Why

After two consecutive dry winters and a series of early summer heat waves, the vast majority of California is gripped by drought.

Water levels in reservoirs like Lake Oroville, Shasta Lake and Lake Mendocino are dangerously low. Wells in parts of the San Joaquin Valley and along the Russian River are drying up, and local water officials have mandated water restrictions up to 40% in some areas.

Already, more than 85% of California is experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to the latest drought monitor released on July 15, and experts forewarn a third year of drought could be on the horizon if the state doesn’t see significant winter rain storms.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown required Californians to conserve 25% of their water during the third year of the last major drought. State leaders have not yet taken that step during this year.

California Drought: La Niña Could Dash Hopes of Desperately Needed Rain This Winter

The punishing drought conditions afflicting most of California are expected to endure for months, climate experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said Thursday.

There is a 60% chance, NOAA experts said, of a La Niña event this winter — conditions that would likely bring about a cool and very dry winter.

La Niña Threatens to Return and Worsen Drought in U.S. West

The possible return of La Niña threatens to give the drought-ravaged U.S. West another winter without much rain or snow.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center issued a watch for La Niña on Thursday, saying there’s a 66% chance the phenomenon will return for a second straight year some time in the November-January period. La Niña occurs when the equatorial Pacific Ocean cools, triggering an atmospheric chain reaction that can cause droughts across the western U.S. and roil weather systems globally.

Severe Drought, Worsened by Climate Change, Ravages the American West

This year, New Mexican officials have a message for farmers who depend on irrigation water from the Rio Grande and other rivers: Unless you absolutely have to plant this year, don’t.

Years of warming temperatures, a failed rainy season last summer and low snowpack this winter have combined to reduce the state’s rivers to a relative trickle. The agency that controls irrigation flows on the Rio Grande forced the issue. To conserve water, it opened its gates a month later than usual.

Severe drought — largely connected to climate change — is ravaging not only New Mexico but the entire Western half of the United States, from the Pacific Coast, across the Great Basin and desert Southwest, and up through the Rockies to the Northern Plains.

In California, wells are drying up, forcing some homeowners to drill new ones that are deeper and costlier. Lake Mead, on the border of Arizona and Nevada, is so drained of Colorado River water that the two states are facing the eventual possibility of cuts in their supply.

Running Out of Water and Time: How Unprepared is California for 2021’s Drought?

With most of the state gripped by extreme dryness, some conditions are better, some worse, than the last record-breaking drought. Over-pumping of wells hasn’t stopped. But urban residents haven’t lapsed back into water-wasting lifestyles. “We are in worse shape than we were before the last drought, and we are going to be in even worse shape after this one,” said Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at University of California at Davis.