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California's Apocalyptic Near-Future: Heat, Drought, and Fires

As a heatwave grips Los Angeles and fires burn uncontrollably in the north, many Californians are wondering, how much more of this will we have to take? Turns out, quite a few more decades. KPCC has compiled some stark data on the next 50 years of projected rainfall, climate, and population density in California, and get ready folks, because it's going to get ROUGH.

Average Temperatures
The future of California looks to be about 4 degrees warmer on average, according to the Department of Water Resources. Obviously with a state this massive, there will be some variance in warming trends. Southern California's average temperatures are projected to rise 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 4.5 degrees in summer. Temperatures in the Central Valley will rise as much as 5 degrees during summer.

Extreme Heat

Whoa boy, you thought this week's heatwave was rough? Get ready for WAY more of that. Currently, Downtown LA experiences an average of one week of extreme heat (temps above 95 degrees) each year. Projections for the years 2041 to 2060 show that number tripling to almost three weeks of extreme heat, a year according to the UCLA Center for Climate Change Solutions. Poor Pasadena will see it's number of extreme heat days increase to more than sixty. And don't even get us STARTED on Riverside (Ok, it's almost 100 days of extreme heat).

Oh, here's some good news. Projected precipitation for California is expected to remain roughly the same in the future. Ah, but here's the rub, warmer temperatures means that more of it will fall as rain than snow.

All that heat and lack of snow will lead to a smaller snowpack on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and that snowpack supplies about a third of the water for the entire state, according to state climate scientist Elissa Lynn. The snow gradually melts in the spring and basically acts as our water insurance policy during the drier seasons, restocking our reservoirs and aqueducts.

Storms! Floods! Fires!
Expect lots more extremes in weather. Warmer temperatures will leads not only to fires, but stronger storm systems.

The soil will steal our water
Increased temperatures will also increase evaporation of the reservoirs and groundwater, leading to drier soil. The ground will essentially become a sponge for rainfall, sucking up vast amounts of water before us humans can even get to it. "If you have drier soils, when the wet season begins again, the water that does fall has to rehydrate those soils," says Alex Hall of UCLA's Climate Change in the Los Angeles Region Project.

And yet, People STILL want to live here
Despite all this, California will STILL grow in population. According to projections by the Demographic Research Unit of the California Department of Finance, California will grow from it's 2014 US Census population of 39 million to 47 million people by the year 2040.

Over half of those additional 8 million people are expected to call Southern California home. Los Angeles County will increase by one million people and that means a much denser city. "The change is happening at a much faster rate than it every happened before," said Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments, "If you think you have challenges today, traffic and pollution ... wait until you have 4 million [more] people." —Jeff Wattenhofer
Future of Water: How hot, dry and crowded will CA get by 2040? [KPCC]
· The Many Terrifying Ways Global Warming Will Soon Be Ravaging California [Curbed LA]