This is a distillation from California’s latest official climate assessment, which is intended to inform an updated climate adaptation strategy this fall. More on the report in our post from last week.
Author Archives: Craig Miller
Craig is KQED's science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to his current position, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.
But hope persists that we can blunt the worst impacts, if not slow down the warming
Granted, it’s been a relatively cool summer in many parts of California. But state officials are saying, “Don’t get used to it.” How would you like to see the number of “extremely hot” days (105 or hotter) in Sacramento increase fivefold in the next few decades? That’s just one of many new projections from the state’s latest official climate assessment.
One hundred-twenty scientists worked on the report, entitled California’s Changing Climate (PDF). Funded by the California Energy Commission, it’s actually a portfolio of studies and contains some of the most specific warnings we’ve seen. For instance, it projects that going forward, average temperatures in the state will warm at three times last century’s pace. It’ll mean heat waves happening more often and lasting longer. Continue reading
“Extreme” rain and snow events happening more often in the south, less often up north
A new report suggests that global warming is playing out quite differently in California, depending on whether it’s north or south of San Francisco Bay.
The project, by the Environment California Research & Policy Center, studied precipitation trends between 1948 and 2011, with an eye on “extreme” events — storms that dumped unusual amounts of rain or snow on the state.
They found a dichotomy in California — but not the usual “north has all the water” split. It turns out that north of San Francisco Bay, the extreme precipitation events were happening 26% less often, but south of the Bay, they were happening 35% more often. The authors calculate that a storm that used to come along once a year on average, is happening more like once every nine months to the south, which includes the Central Coast. In fact, Santa Barbara showed the biggest increase in frequency, 72% since 1948. Continue reading
Opponents call Governor’s Delta plan “plumbing before policy” and “a wink and a promise”
“You’ve launched a war. We’ll fight the battle,” was the rallying cry from congressman John Garamendi, within hours of the announcement of Governor Jerry Brown’s revised plan for California’s already embattled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Brown was flanked by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and officials of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in rolling out a plan which Brown’s Natural Resources Agency says, “will undergo a rigorous public environmental review.” The plan’s centerpiece is a long-debated tunnel to shuttle water from the Sacramento River, north of the Delta, to the vast plumbing system that carries water to farms in the San Joaquin Valley and cities in Southern California. The conveyance is touted as a way to protect fish from the voracious pumps that fill the canals heading south. Continue reading
A briefing from KQED’s Lauren Sommer on the upcoming plan for a pair of multi-billion-dollar tunnels designed to shuttle water from the Sacramento River across the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. If you’ve got six minutes, it’s a good backgrounder on the long-debated idea.
Including some useful perspective on recent comparisons to the 1930s Dust Bowl.
Most California hydro doesn’t count toward utilities’ renewable energy mandates. Should it?
It’s a fair question and one that a reader posed during our recent series on “Water and Power” in California. Hydro has its virtues. It’s clean, once it’s built; producing hydropower creates no significant greenhouse gas or other emissions. And it’s certainly “renewable” as long as the water flows. But it’s not without its environmental impacts, especially where large “terminal” dams are involved (the kind that fish can’t get past).
In fact, state regulators divide the resource into “large” and “small” hydro, the latter being defined as anything producing 30 megawatts of power or less. Utilities can count small hydro toward their mandated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) but not the bigger operations. But why? Continue reading
And why that could show up in your electric bill
While much is uncertain about California’s warming climate, there is little doubt that it’s already changing the fundamentals of how most of us get our water. In fact, the Bureau of Reclamation has estimated that the Sierra snowpack could be reduced by half as soon as a decade from now.
And that has some far-reaching implications that could even show up on your electric bill.
“When you hear people talk about a depleted snowpack, it’s because of warmer temperatures and the snow just cannot stay in the hills,” says Robert Shibatani, a hydrologist and consultant to numerous government agencies. He says the “hydrograph” for California — the “usual” pattern of precipitation and runoff — is already changing. “There’s no question about it,” he told me in a recent interview. “That’s not an if. It’s not even a when, because I can tell you the when. It’s happening now.” Continue reading
Tagged by some as a “convert” to global warming, the Berkeley physicist talks about his work, some of its controversial funding, and his views on renewable energy
The outcome of Richard Muller’s sweeping independent audit of temperature data surprised a lot of people — including him. Known as the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, or BEST, the project was rooted in Muller’s own skepticism toward some of the key data underlying conclusions that the UN’s influential climate panel has drawn about global warming.
The author of two books worth of science advice “for future presidents” now concedes that “global warming is real,” but he remains skeptical about a lot of things, like:
- The objectivity of some of his colleagues
- The link between climate change and severe weather
- The future of some renewable energy sources, like solar thermal and geothermal
In the video clip (below), Muller talks about the perils of accepting scientific findings at face value.
Here are some more excerpts from our recent conversation: Continue reading
Forget California, says the outspoken Berkeley physicist. It’s what China does that matters
Despite some well-publicized recent conversions on climate matters, Richard Muller’s reputation as a climate skeptic is well earned. In two books, one published and one forthcoming, the UC Berkeley physicist offers counsel on physics and Energy for Future Presidents.
One thing Muller is highly skeptical of is California’s legislated climate strategy, a perspective that he laid out for me in a recent interview at his home in the Berkeley Hils. What matters, he says, is what China does. And little else:
CM: The point here is, and you’ve written about this, is that California can’t save the world in terms of cutting emissions, that no matter what we do, what matters is what China’s doing.
RM: Certainly, California is far too small a part of the global warming problem that anything we do here cannot really help. Even setting an example is something that, I think, is not something we are going to do. But if we can develop an industry that lowers the price of solar cells that lowers the price of wind, that makes nuclear safe, if we can do those things, then that could have a real impact on the future. Continue reading