How climate change is impacting the California’s Central Valley

The impact of climate change is far-reaching. The global impacts of climate change include higher temperatures and an increased frequency of many types of natural disasters, such as storms, floods, heat waves, and droughts. These types of events can have disastrous and costly consequences on a global level — damaging property, putting access to clean drinking water at risk, fueling wildfires that are difficult, if not impossible, to control, as well as polluting the water and the air.

In California’s Central Valley, both ranchers and farmers are struggling with the local effects of climate change: unpredictable weather events, extreme temperatures, devastating wildfires, changing patterns of disease, and pest infestations. In one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, the drought has resulted in a limited supply of surface water for irrigation, and the groundwater has been seriously depleted. 

The economy of the Central Valley is likely to suffer the effects of climate changes in the future. Temperatures are expected to increase by more than 1 degree this century, but a study conducted by NASA predicts that temperatures could climb between 2-6 degrees Celsius by 2100. California is predicted to lose billions of dollars/year to climate change, with the hot inland Central Valley regions being more adversely affected. 

Have we already gone too far?

Some of observed and projected trends for the Central Valley of California due to climate change include:

  • Hotter summers and colder winters
  • More arid landscape
  • More intense droughts and extreme heat
  • Increase frequency and intensity of wildfires
  • More flooding
  • Changes in stream flows
  • Less snow, but a higher percentage of precipitation as rain
  • Less agricultural acreage
  • Increased stream temperatures

According to a groundbreaking climate change study published in the Journal Science, the crops, especially fruits, vegetables, and nut trees in the hot inland regions of the Central Valley could be significantly affected due to climate change.

Tackling climate change is a monumental task, but farmers in the Central Valley of California can play a major role in the solution, and some already have begun by experimenting with new farming practices that save on water and energy, improve the health of the soil to grow healthier plants that have a better chance of survival against diseases in pests?

Are you doing your part to be part of the solution?

Doing your part

An analysis of climate change projections for California indicate that there may be more years with atmospheric river events such as the one that resulted in The Great Flood of 1862 which turned the Central Valley into a 300 miles long by 20 miles wide inland sea. Climate change could result in events that are much stronger than the one that resulted in the Great Flood of 1862. 

The farmers in the Central Valleys are making improvements to the ways in which they farm as part of the climate change solution. You can do your part by reducing water waste, investing in energy-efficient appliances, powering your home with renewable energy, buying LED bulbs, and unplugging rarely used devices to save electricity. It might not seem like much, but every little effort counts!

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