August 22, 2013

Global Warming already impacting California

The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a somewhat depressing report describing how climate change is already impacting California. The report was issued by the he Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and evaluated 36 indicators of Climate Change in California. Among the indicators they tracked were impacts on physical systems- including sea level and Sierra Nevada snow melt, biological systems – including humans, animals and vegetation and impacts on climate change – such as average temperature and extreme heat events.

Some of the impacts California is already experiencing: reduced spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada, more acidic waters in Monterrey Bay, shorter winter chill periods required to grow fruit in the Central Valley. Ocean warming may have been responsible for a drop in Chinook salmon population during the past decade. Even insects have been effected – butterflies in the Central Valley are emerging from hiding earlier in the spring. Small mammels in the Sierra Nevada have been migrating to higher ground.

Humans are of course impacted also. Since glaciers in the Sierra Nevada have been shrinking spring runoff from snow melt has declined and this affects both Central Valley farmers and hydroelectric plants that rely on this snowmelt to produce power. The less than cheery report warns that we can expect more heat waves, wildfires and higher sea levels.

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