Tag: California drought

Environment: Can prescribed fires make forests more resilient?

New study focuses on drought-stricken California forests

Beetle-killed forests now dominate the landscape in Summit County. Prescribed fires are needed to help regenerate forests and clear dangerous fuels, according to White River NF supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.
Prescribed fires could help make forests more tolerant to drought and more resilient in a warmer climate. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

A rising tide of insect infestations, tree mortality and wildfires — all caused by global warming — has resulted in political pressure for more logging in U.S. Forests, but there’s plenty of research showing that cutting down trees doesn’t do much good and can even increase the fire danger.

Exploring alternative options for strengthening forest resiliency, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service recently found that thinning forests with prescribed fires can reduce drought. Continue reading “Environment: Can prescribed fires make forests more resilient?”

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Climate: El Niño not a drought-buster for California yet

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Exceptional drought is still widespread across California with a few more months of the rainy season ahead.

Will spring deliver big rains?

Staff Report

Although there are still a few months left in the rainy season, this year’s El Niño hasn’t exactly been the drought buster California was hoping for. Thus far, plentiful precipitation in the northern part of state will go a long way toward replenishing reservoirs, but central and southern California have remained relatively dry.

The “exceptional drought” footprint is now spread across about 38 percent of the state, as compared to 45 percent three months ago, and precipitation in the key snowpack areas of the Sierra Nevada has been about average. Farther south, especially in the L.A. Basin, precipitation is still well below average for the rainy season to date.

That may be due to the fact that the distribution of warm water across the Pacific Ocean is quite different than during past El Niños that brought more widespread heavy precipitation to California. Continue reading “Climate: El Niño not a drought-buster for California yet”

California drought has damaged millions of trees

Mighty redwoods.
Redwood trees in California. @bberwyn photo.

Large swaths of forest now seen as more vulnerable to future droughts

Staff Report

California’s extended drought may take a long-term toll on the state’s forests, scientists reported last month after studying severe water loss from tree canopies since 2011.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that up to 58 million large trees in California showed signs of being drought stressed, with persistently low rainfall, high temperatures and outbreaks of the destructive bark beetle combining to increase forest mortality risk. Continue reading “California drought has damaged millions of trees”

Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion

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California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’

Staff Report

Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants. Continue reading “Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion”

Climate: New tree-ring study suggests last winter’s California snowpack was the lowest in 500 years

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A scant snowpack left California in a world of hurt. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘We should be prepared for this type of snow drought to occur much more frequently because of rising temperatures …’

Staff Report

LINZ — A new tree ring study suggests this past winter’s snowpack in the Sierra Nevada may have been the lowest in 500 years — and there may be more of the same ahead, warned to researchers who analyzed the data.

“We should be prepared for this type of snow drought to occur much more frequently because of rising temperatures,” said Valerie Trouet, an associate professor of dendrochronology at the University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. “Anthropogenic warming is making the drought more severe. Continue reading “Climate: New tree-ring study suggests last winter’s California snowpack was the lowest in 500 years”

Court maintains river flows for Northern California salmon

Latest water skirmish ends with win for fish

Spawning salmon. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Spawning salmon. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Life has been tough for California’s freshwater fish during the state’s extended drought. But some salmon in the northern part of the state will have a fighting chance after a federal judge last week decided to maintain a key flow program aimed at boosting flows in the Trinity River.

The Trinity is a tributary of the Klamath River, where major salmon runs are currently facing the threat of a major fish kill due to the drought. U.S. Judge Lawrence O’Neill, based on Fresno, California, ruled that the risks from shutting down a federal program to release additional reservoir water to protect the salmon were too great, and the potential benefit to irrigators too uncertain. Continue reading “Court maintains river flows for Northern California salmon”

Climate: West may be in permanent drought by 2060s

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Is western drought the new climate normal?

New study quantifies global warming effect on California drought

Staff Report

FRISCO — Researchers say there’s new evidence that global warming will push the western U.S. into the driest conditions in at least the past 1,000 years, as higher temperatures exacerbate drought condition in the region.

The new study by scientists with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Cornell University focused on the current California drought, showing that warmer temps drive moisture from plants and soil into the air. Warmer temps likely worsened the California drought by 25 percent, the scientists concluded in their paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Continue reading “Climate: West may be in permanent drought by 2060s”