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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
17-year-old Shreya Ramachandran has already won awards for her research into reusing "grey water." Shreya Ramachandran

By Jeremy Deaton

Shreya Ramachandran, 17, remembers witnessing California's water crisis firsthand on a visit to Tulare County in 2014, when she was still a preteen. Tulare spans a large swath of farmland in California's Central Valley, and at that time, locals were facing dire water shortages amid an ongoing drought made worse by climate change.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Dry conditions across the West follow a hot, dry year of record-setting wildfires in 2020. Communities were left with scenes like this, from California's Creek Fire. Amir AghaKouchak / University of California Irvine

By Mojtaba Sadegh, Amir AghaKouchak and John Abatzoglou

Just about every indicator of drought is flashing red across the western U.S. after a dry winter and warm early spring. The snowpack is at less than half of normal in much of the region. Reservoirs are being drawn down, river levels are dropping and soils are drying out.

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Madeleine_Steinbach / iStock / Getty Images

Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider these vitamin supplements, and which brands we recommend.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

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A view of Lake Powell from Romana Mesa, Utah, on Sept. 8, 2018. DEA / S. AMANTINI / Contributor / Getty Images

By Robert Glennon

Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its fair share from a river, lake or aquifer that crosses borders.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom is planning to end new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024. Sundry Photography / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

Climate campaigners on Friday cautiously applauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom's moves to cut off new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024 and evaluate phasing out oil production by 2045, while also stressing that the timeline still needs to be accelerated.

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The Sierra Nevada mountains are among the ranges most at-risk for early snowpack melt. CampPhoto / Getty Images

As the planet warms, mountain snowpack is increasingly melting. But "global warming isn't affecting everywhere the same," Climate Scientist Amato Evan told the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

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Minimal snow was found at the Phillips Station meadow before the start of the first snow survey of 2018, conducted by the California Department of Water Resources. Kelly M. Grow / Calif. Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

Most of us know a bad drought when we see one: Lakes and rivers recede from their normal water lines, crops wither in fields, and lawns turn brown. Usually we think of these droughts as being triggered by a lack of rain, but scientists also track drought in other ways.

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An orchard near Kettleman City in California's San Joaquin Valley on April 2, 2021. Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

By Debra Perrone and Scott Jasechko

As the drought outlook for the Western U.S. becomes increasingly bleak, attention is turning once again to groundwater – literally, water stored in the ground. It is Earth's most widespread and reliable source of fresh water, but it's not limitless.

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Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

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A recent study finds that superyachts emit the most carbon emissions. xefstock / Getty Images

By Richard Wilk and Beatriz Barros

Tesla's Elon Musk and Amazon's Jeff Bezos have been vying for the world's richest person ranking all year after the former's wealth soared a staggering US$160 billion in 2020, putting him briefly in the top spot.

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An alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, as seen here in Christmas Valley, South Lake Tahoe, California on Feb. 15, 2020. jcookfisher / CC BY 2.0

California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

A California newt (Taricha torosa) from Napa County, California, USA. Connor Long / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Tara Lohan

Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.

Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.

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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
17-year-old Shreya Ramachandran has already won awards for her research into reusing "grey water." Shreya Ramachandran

By Jeremy Deaton

Shreya Ramachandran, 17, remembers witnessing California's water crisis firsthand on a visit to Tulare County in 2014, when she was still a preteen. Tulare spans a large swath of farmland in California's Central Valley, and at that time, locals were facing dire water shortages amid an ongoing drought made worse by climate change.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Dry conditions across the West follow a hot, dry year of record-setting wildfires in 2020. Communities were left with scenes like this, from California's Creek Fire. Amir AghaKouchak / University of California Irvine

By Mojtaba Sadegh, Amir AghaKouchak and John Abatzoglou

Just about every indicator of drought is flashing red across the western U.S. after a dry winter and warm early spring. The snowpack is at less than half of normal in much of the region. Reservoirs are being drawn down, river levels are dropping and soils are drying out.

Read More Show Less
Madeleine_Steinbach / iStock / Getty Images

Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider these vitamin supplements, and which brands we recommend.

Read More Show Less
A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A view of Lake Powell from Romana Mesa, Utah, on Sept. 8, 2018. DEA / S. AMANTINI / Contributor / Getty Images

By Robert Glennon

Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its fair share from a river, lake or aquifer that crosses borders.

Read More Show Less
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is planning to end new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024. Sundry Photography / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

Climate campaigners on Friday cautiously applauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom's moves to cut off new hydraulic fracturing permits by 2024 and evaluate phasing out oil production by 2045, while also stressing that the timeline still needs to be accelerated.

Read More Show Less