- California has been hit by a “megadrought” that has dried up key reservoirs in the state.
- Entire lakes have shrunk exponentially, leaving yachts and docks beached on dry land.
- Nearly 95% of the state is experiencing “severe drought” and is susceptible to wild fires.
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California is experiencing its worst drought in over four years and climate change experts warn it could just be the tip of the (melting) iceberg.
On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that found global temperatures will continue to increase by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius between now and 2040. For every half-degree of warming, the frequency and intensity of heat waves and droughts also increases.
California has already seen a significant impact from climate change, which has pushed temperatures an average of about 2 degrees hotter to date – drying out soil and melting Sierra snow rivers, which causes less water to soak into the ground, as well as flow through rivers and reservoirs.
Over 37 million people have already been impacted by the “megadrought” and nearly 95% of the state has been classified as experiencing “severe drought,” which has put the land in significant danger of wildfires, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).
Last year, California land was consumed by over 8,200 wildfires – a number double the state’s previous record. This year, scorching weather has made the state even more susceptible to breakout wildfires than in 2020. Last week, a California town was consumed in only 30 minutes by the Dixie wildfire, which has become the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history.
In June, Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis told the Associated Press the water levels of California’s over 1,500 reservoirs were 50% lower than they should be at that time of year.
-Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) July 30, 2021
In April, scorching weather turned the San Gabriel Reservoir lake bed to dust. The reservoir is not expected to see rain fall until the end of the year.
In June, the drought dried up a lake so much that it potentially exposed a decades old mystery, allowing officials to find a plane that had crashed in 1965.
On Monday, California shut down a major hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville for the first time since the plant went into operation in 1967 when the major reservoir hit 25% capacity – its lowest level on record. The decision puts extra strain on the electrical grid during the hottest part of the summer.
In June, about 130 houseboats had to be hauled out of the lake as its water levels hit 38% capacity. Water elevations at Lake Oroville are forecast to reach as low as 620 feet (188.98m) above sea level by the end of October, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
It’s going to be a rough summer for boat owners in the state.
Pictures from the Associated Press show massive lakes have run dry, leaving boats and docks completely beached
Experts say the drought could devastate local wildlife populations, as well as California’s tourism industry.
In April, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference in the dried up waterbed of Lake Mendocino. Where he stood there should have been about 40 feet (12.19m) of water.
“This is without precedent,” Newsom said. “Oftentimes we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment.”
The California Department of Water Resources reduced farmers and growers to 5% of their expected water allocation in March. Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to further restrict the amount of water that farmers can draw from rivers and reservoirs – cutting it altogether for some farmers.
When the authorities cut off water supplies, farmers find themselves forced to rely on wells, dug deep into the ground at costs of thousands of dollars. Many farmers say they have been forced to leave their fields mostly barren as even their wells have begun to dry up.