Drought map showing severe drought across California & much of the US West

US Drought Monitor- West, author Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center

On Sunday, Scientific American reported that 100 Percent of California Now in Highest Stages of Drought. The National Drought Mitigation Center currently releases a graphic drought map each Thursday. Scientific American comments on last week’s map:

The drought in California, which has been building for the past few years, really took hold this winter. December-March is supposed to be the region’s wet season, but this year turned out to be a bust. At the beginning of April, nearly all of the state was in a drought — nearly 70 percent was in ‘extreme’ or ‘exceptional’ drought, the two highest stages. By the end of the month, the entire state was experiencing at least some form of drought in what has been the driest start to a year in California on record.

At the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC Davis performed a cost and jobs impact study using computer modeling, and estimated costs at $1.7 to $2 billion, with 14,500 lost farm worker jobs. Unfortunately, the Central Valley is hard hit by this drought:

Central Valley farmers expect 1/3 less irrigation water in a state that leads the nation in the production of fruits, vegetables and nuts. The report estimates 6 percent of farmland in the Central Valley — or 410,000 acres — could go unplanted because of cuts in water deliveries. A more detailed report is due out this summer.

According to 2007 data, the top four counties in US agricultural sales are in the Central Valley:

The Central Valley is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.[1] More than 230 crops are grown there.[1] On less than 1 percent of the total farmland in the United States, the Central Valley produces 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural output by value: 17 billion USD in 2002. Its agricultural productivity relies on irrigation from both surface water diversions and groundwater pumping from wells. About one-sixth of the irrigated land in the U.S. is in the Central Valley.[25]

Virtually all non-tropical crops are grown in the Central Valley, which is the primary source for a number of food products throughout the United States, including tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus.[26]

There are 6,000 almond growers that produce more than 1900 million pounds a year, about 90 percent of the world’s supply.[27]

Although freeway signs in San Francisco urge water conservation during this time, there is a possibility of water rationing. In addition, wildfires have been an issue and could get worse this season. Governor Brown linkedclimate change to the drought and skewered the climate change deniers, saying:

‘As we send billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping gases, we get heat and we get fires and we get what we’re seeing,’ he said. ‘So, we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it in the best way we can.’

Brown also lambasted those in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring or is caused by humans, saying in California, there’s no question climate is changing.

‘It is true that there’s virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous,’ he said. ‘There is no scientific question — there’s just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial.’


California is not alone. The US Drought Monitor map of last week shows roughly half of the country in some sort of drought.

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