With California in a drought, this summer may be the hottest summer yet

Story by Keara Chorn, Messenger Staff Writer

With the prolonged drought worsening throughout California, this year may have the hottest summer yet. 

There have been many prominent instances of extended droughts throughout our state’s history, especially since it is a recurring part of our climate. However over the past 20 years, especially the two most recent years, California has endured many record-dry conditions. Appearing to have overcome the drought with heavy rainfall and snow in October and December, the beginning of this year proved to be some of the driest months in California’s history. 

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, approximately half of California is now in a severe drought. Meanwhile, 16% of the state is experiencing extreme drought and the rest is in a moderate drought. With reduced chances of rain and increased fire risk, drought conditions are mostly likely to worsen this summer. 

The Sierra Nevada snowpacks, which normally supply about a third of California’s water, is a crucial part of our water supply. Stored in the mountains, water in the form of snow usually melts in late spring or early summer in order to replenish supplies. However this year, the snowpack decreased to only 38% of its average, resulting in reservoirs gradually drying up. 

The main reason for the drought is human-induced climate change. Over the recent years, our state has been experiencing fluctuating temperatures, especially during the summer months. The buildup of excessive heat in the atmosphere is constantly drawing more moisture from the soil, resulting in increased evaporation. Consequently, warmer winters cause snow to fall as rain instead. In addition to that, the lack of rain in the summer as well as the dry atmospheric conditions is worsening drought conditions.

Due to drought conditions, every sector of the agricultural economy is ultimately impacted with much lower yields. The lack of water source for the crops can lead to growth stunts and a decline in both size and quality. Water availability is a current issue that many farmers face since they depend on crop and livestock yields. Consequently, farmers may have to spend more money on irrigation, which will result in higher prices of produce.

Beside affecting agriculture, the impact it has on our ecosystems is a major concern. It can lead to the decline of the populations of native fishes and birds, especially when bodies of water dry up. To add on to that, the severity of the drought can worsen the danger of wildfires. This could lead to billions of dollars in damages, deaths, as well as air quality and health impacts. 

Despite the changes in our climate, we can still become more resilient by preparing and gradually adapting to the current climate to help our state. By managing water well, we will be able to see gradual improvements, as well as, lesser devastating impacts.