Florida might not like to talk about climate change, but here in drought-stricken California, the topic’s not so taboo. Mired in year four of the worst drought on record, Californians are witnessing the climate literally change before their eyes. As the state nears the end of one of the warmest, driest winters on record, with Sierra snowpack and statewide reservoir water levels at alarming lows, the evidence is pretty hard to ignore.
A stroll through California's natural world
Lake Oroville, then and now
July 2011 (Paul Hames/CA DWR) August 2014 (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Despite some stormy days in December and a wet weekend ahead, California is bracing for its fourth consecutive year of drought. Last month marked California’s driest January on record. Typically the wettest period of the year, San Francisco remained bone dry the whole month; the first time the city had no measurable rainfall since it began keeping tabs more than 165 years ago.
UPDATE: The “Parched Produce” comic below notes that the State Water Project cut off all water allocations to local water agencies. That was accurate as of Spring 2014. The project has since increased its water allocation to 5 percent.
But it’s far from just California’s problem. The state produces a huge percentage of the nation’s agriculture — nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts, by some estimates. And that requires a massive amount of water: farms here use about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply.
Much is riding on the upcoming rainy season. Because if not enough water remains valuable for farmers to adequately irrigate their land, the impact will likely be felt far beyond the state’s borders.
This Carbon Map was created by Duncan Clark and Robin Houston from the design firm KILN as an entry in the World Bank’s Apps for Climate competition. Recently updated and featured on The Guardian, the map resizes the world’s geography so as to reflect the nations that are most responsible for climate change and those most vulnerable to its impacts. Click the PLAY button to see a demo. Listed below the map is a collection of additional interactive climate change resources.
The 2014 fire season was predicted to be a doozy, and so far it hasn’t failed to disappoint. Prolonged drought conditions throughout the West, felt particularly hard across the Golden State, have resulted in a string of large, destructive and extremely costly blazes, charring huge swaths of forest in Northern California and the Northwest and leaving local and federal fire prevention agencies dangerously strapped for staffing, funding and resources. As of September 4, over 38,000 fires had been reported since the beginning of 2014, burning more than 2.7 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Why has fire season gotten so much longer, more dangerous and increasingly expensive? Comic journalist Andy Warner explains the heated history. Continue reading
Mouse over this USGS earthquake map to see the names of the fault lines (in red) nearest you. Zoom in and click on the South Napa quake for more specific location data and to view a map showing the quake’s geographical intensity range. Zoom out to see the locations and sizes of other recent earthquakes around the world. View a full-screen version of the map here.
A 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rattled Napa and surrounding communities early Sunday morning was the largest to hit the Bay Area since the devastating 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989. The South Napa Earthquake, as it’s being called, struck at 3:20 a.m., causing significant damage and injuries in the immediate vicinity and waking folks up as far south as Salinas and as far north as Ukiah.
As of Monday morning, USGS scientists still hadn’t confirmed the specific fault line where the quake occurred, although the likeliest culprit is the Browns Valley section of the West Napa fault, one of the many fault lines comprising the sprawling San Andreas Fault system.
For more on the science of earthquakes, check out KQED’s free e-book.
Note: This post was originally published on May 20, 2014
“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
Mark Twain may never have actually said it himself, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true. Continue reading
UPDATE: On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions from large emitters like power plants and factories.
The Obama administration dropped the proverbial climate change bomb earlier this month when it announced a groundbreaking plan — without congressional approval — to significantly reduce the nation’s carbon emissions over the next 15 years. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains what these new rules set out to do.