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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

California's Climate and Agriculture

California has weather in extremes. Most of the state has a cool-to-cold wet-to-snowy winter and a warm-to-hot dry summer. It's really a two season climate. Premium wine grapes require a warm, sunny growing season, but with a cooling influence as coastal California gets from the Pacific Ocean.

Most of the state went from the driest period in its recorded history to the wettest year ever. The swing from almost nothing to too much is phenomenal. If you look back to find the state's wettest seasons the top ones are all in the last 25 years. The three driest years for snowpack in the mountains have all been in the last 40 years. Of course, we haven't been recording the weather for too long in climate terms. However, according to NOAA this was the worst drought since the 1500s.

The snow: Mid-winter 2014 vs early spring 2017
In a normal year over 60% of the state's water comes from the Sierra Nevada Mtns
 
Most will blame the dramatic weather on climate change. The theory being that a warming planet changes ocean currents and local water temperatures. A small change can significantly alter the state's weather.

If it's climate change or not it really doesn't matter as farmers are scratching their heads trying to figure out what's next. The governor declared the drought over. The groundwater in the Central Valley is still disappearing and has been for decades. This year's rain and snowmelt will only help a bit to recharge the aquifers. There's no real leadership coming from the state on what should be done now and in the future. Do we need more reservoirs? Do we need a comprehensive, permanent water conservation plan for agriculture?

Why is what the farmers do so important? Because agriculture uses 80% of the state's water! It will cost billions to fix our water supply, delivery systems, and farm usage. California's ag business is huge. From California comes 90% of the country's wine, two-thirds of the fruits and nuts, and one-third of our vegetables.

In today's news: Things are heating up