California's unabated drought (the one that's been going on for four long years) has parched the entire state and led to some frightening consequences (parts of the state are sinking), but the worst is yet to come and "there's no way out," according to climate scientists. Those were their literal words. They presented to regulators and reps from the Governor's Office at the California Climate Change Symposium this week, the Daily Breeze reports, telling them that the drought had been dramatically exacerbated by global warming, and that there's a lot worse in store: less water, more pollution, scarier weather, bigger storms, floods, and fires.
"What we're beginning to understand is that there's no way out," said Susanne Moser, who's described as a leading expert on climate change. "We need transformational change. We don't need more studies as much as we need to communicate the urgency and make solid changes. We need to not debate forever." But as the DB's Sandy Mazza writes, there's little funding at all to handle climate change and its effects, and even less for low-income communities, which are "therefore less prepared than their more affluent counterparts." But even the preparation that's already been done is wildly insufficient: "We're getting over the illusion that we can (fix) this with just a few little changes ... We have to break old habits," says Moser. Here's some of what the scientists are warning about; maybe they'll scare us into breaking some habits:
— An analysis of climate change's effect on the state's drought published in Geophysical Research Letters concluded that climate change made California's "dry season" as much as 20 percent worse. Plus, the combo of hot temperatures and little precipitation are "more likely" to result in a drought, so a warmer climate would probably be a droughtier one, a Stanford researcher explained.
— The heat evaporates more groundwater too, which is depleting underground reserves; those won't refill as easily as a reservoir might, "posing a problem for future drinking-water supplies."
— In addition to droughts, we should also expect excessive water. "We're in the middle of a drought but we're going to be in the middle of a flood, and we're less prepared for that," the president of Oakland's Pacific Institute says. Scientists are expecting an enormous El Niño effect this winter, which will mean biblical amounts of precipitation.
— One result of a warmer overall climate will be higher sea levels. Though areas along the coast, like the Port of LA, have already made some effort to prepare for a rise in waters, coastal 'hoods and "Low-lying areas, including the Los Angeles International Airport, are at risk of being submerged in water."
— Meanwhile, warmer atmospheric conditions hold more water, which can amount to more intense storms, said a US Geological Survey hydrologist, so we'll have those, too. "Atmospheric rivers," a thread of "thick precipitation" that travels through the air like a stream or river, will increase as the climate warms up. (The tail-end of an atmospheric river hit the Bay Area in late December and it was ROUGH.)
— But even though "big storms are expected this winter, Californians should actually anticipate worsening droughts, scientists said." New findings presented at this symposium suggest that there's a 95 percent chance that the changing, warming climate created that high pressure ridge—aka the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge—that's kept rain from falling on California for years—and will probably do it again. "Global warming has at least tripled the probability of the atmospheric condition" that produced the ridge.
— It's not just coastal areas that will be in trouble. Warmer temperatures are creating bigger forest fires (which in turn produce carbon emissions). "Wildfires are of particular concern because conifer forests are thicker than ever and a drier, hotter climate is especially conducive to fire," said one hydrologist.