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Rain Helps in California Fire Fight, Lightning Sparks Others

Thunderstorms that dropped light rain gave some breathing room to crews struggling to quench California’s massive wildfires but lightning sparked several new blazes in the drought-stricken north, fire officials said.

The storms that rolled through Thursday night into Friday were followed by weekend forecasts of clear weather and a warming trend in fire areas into next week.

Signs of Drought From Space

As Tracy Schohr goes about her day, water is always on her mind. She’s thinking of it as she rides an all-terrain vehicle around the pasture, looks up hay prices and weather forecasts, and collects data on grazing and invasive weeds for a scientific study.

Schohr is a rancher and farmer in Gridley, California, where her family has raised beef cattle and grown rice for six generations. She also aids in scientific research to study drought and other agricultural issues with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

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 Just Recorded Its Hottest July Ever. Charts Show It’s Part of a Trend

California just closed the books on its hottest July on record, a whopping 5.3 degrees above normal.

It was the latest in a rash of record-setting months over the past year, as the state saw its hottest July, June, October, September and August in history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA data shows that the average monthly temperature in July was 80 degrees, 5.3 degrees above normal, or the average temperature from 1901 to 2000. June’s average temperature was 75 degrees, 6.8 degrees above normal.

Rare California Water Restrictions Hit Farmers Amid Dire Shortages

Faced with dire water shortages and a severe drought, California has moved to enact emergency restrictions that will prevent thousands of farmers and landowners from using water drawn from an enormous system of streams and rivers that services nearly two-thirds of the state.

TID Experiencing Fourth-Driest Year in 90 Years

With just one month left in the precipitation year and little rainfall to show for it, Turlock Irrigation District and its customers are currently experiencing the fourth-driest year on record.

According to TID hydrologist Olivia Cramer, the Tuolumne River Watershed has received just 18.23 inches of precipitation since Sept. 1, or just about half of the historical average. The TID precipitation year, which is different from the water year, runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 and will come to an end next month. The water year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

This year’s 18.23 inches of rainfall come as the region experiences a second-straight year of drought conditions and puts 2020-2021 in the record books as TID’s fourth-driest precipitation year on record. The three driest years on record in order are 1977 (10.90 inches), 1976 (17.46 inches) and 2015 (17.50 inches).

Southern Arizona Starts To Recover From Exceptional Drought Thanks To Strong Monsoon Start

Southern Arizona has been under the strongest category of drought since early last year. With a strong start to monsoon, the area should soon show a bit of recovery.

It takes more than just a handful of good rainfalls to recover from such a bad drought.

“You really want to have a saturation process. You need to replenish the aquifers. You need to replenish the water tables,” Chief Meteorologist Matt Brode said. “Heavy steady rains work and basically all kinds of frames, but it has to happen over a long period of time.”

Palm Springs Gets Most Rain in Nearly 6 Months Sunday

Palm Springs was visited by early morning thunderstorms Sunday. The scattered showers delivered 0.08 inches of rain between about 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, with additional rain possible Sunday afternoon.

Rainfall varied throughout the rest of the Coachella Valley, ranging from a relatively low 0.04 inches in Palm Desert and Indio to 0.27 inches in Cathedral City.

Drought Woes in Dry US West Raise July 4 Fireworks Fears

Many Americans aching for normalcy as pandemic restrictions end are looking forward to traditional Fourth of July fireworks. But with a historic drought in the U.S. West and fears of another devastating wildfire season, officials are canceling displays, passing bans on setting off fireworks or begging for caution.

Fireworks already have caused a few small wildfires, including one started by a child in northern Utah and another in central California. Last year, a pyrotechnic device designed for a baby’s gender reveal celebration sparked a California blaze that killed a firefighter during a U.S. wildfire season that scorched the second-highest amount of land in nearly 40 years.

Some regions of the American West are experiencing their worst drought conditions in more than a century this year, said Jennifer Balch, director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado.

Intensifying California Drought Promises ‘Very Concerning’ Fire Season

California is entering its summer fire season with a high level of flammability. The hottest and most fire-prone months of the year are ahead. Conditions in the state are a striking example of escalating fire potential in the drought-stricken West.

How the season unfolds will depend on a number of factors, including where ignitions occur and the duration of summer heat waves.

But the outlook is poor at this time, given deepening drought, abundant dry fuels and hot early-season temperatures.