Warmest winter on record worsens California drought

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:26am EDT

A sercret service agent looks over a farm field as President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California's drought situation in Los Banos, California February 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/Pool

A sercret service agent looks over a farm field as President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California's drought situation in Los Banos, California February 14, 2014 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/Pool

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California is coming off of its warmest winter on record, aggravating an enduring drought in the most populous U.S. state, federal weather scientists said Monday.

The state had a average temperature of 48 Fahrenheit (9 Celsius) for December, January and February, an increase from 47.2 F in 1980-81, the last hottest winter, and more than 4 degrees hotter than the 20th-century average in California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement.

Warmer winters could make the already parched state even drier by making it less likely for snow to accumulate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, NOAA spokesman Brady Phillips said. That snow, melting in the spring and summer and running down through the state's rivers, is vital for providing water in the summer, when the state typically experiences little rain.

"Winter is when states like California amass their main water budget, when snowpack is building," said Phillips, a marine biologist. "If you're starting from a deficit and going into the dry season, it's setting you up for a drier summer."

California is in the grip of a three-year dry spell that threatens to have devastating effects on the state and beyond. Farmers are considering idling a half million acres of cropland, a loss of production that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage, and several small communities are at risk of running out of drinking water.

The state also recorded its driest winter to date by March, despite recent storms, with an average of 4.5 inches of rainfall, compared to 11.7 inches over the previous winter, NOAA said.

Around the West and in the Great Plains, multiple states also experienced warmer temperatures and low rainfall. Arizona had its fourth warmest winter to date and Texas had it lowest reservoir levels in 25 years by March.

Despite regional heavy snow pummeling regions the eastern region of the country, overall rainfall across the United States was far below normal. An average of 5.7 inches of rain fell overall in the United States in the past three months, causing the ninth driest winter on record, NOAA said.

Climatologists and other scientists with NOAA's National Climatic Data Center record a summary of temperatures and rainfall for all 50 states each month. Every three months, the federal agency releases data on spring, summer, fall and winter weather.

The agency is planning to release its spring outlook climate forecast on Thursday.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (3)
TrueScience wrote:
When are we going to wake up? We’ve only got about 15 years left to avoid catastrophe:

NASA- funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

Mar 18, 2014 8:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
Our drought continues in Texas. We received some rain this week, but rain is 30% below normal, and area reservoirs are over 9 feet below normal. Food production will continue to suffer. I’ve seen articles about northern floods starting in the northern tributaries of the Mississippi that will continue to wash away topsoil toward the Gulf of Mexico through the summer.

We need a national water pipeline system to send water from flooded areas to regions in drought. We need to build desalination plants along the Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts for more water.

Since 2001, China has been building a continental size irrigation system to move rain water that is naturally desalinated by typhoons and dropped on the east and south coasts. Pumps, pipelines, tunnels, canals, and reservoirs move water to the north, center, and west. It should be complete by 2020 to 2025. Global warming melts Siberia’s tundra and gives Russia more agriculture, aquaculture, livestock, poultry, and timber in addition to oil, gas, minerals, and industry. By 2020 to 2025, the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China and the FSR (KGB) in Russia will dominate the world’s food supply and gain influence among those countries that need to eat. Russia and China are already military allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with four central Asian nations, and food will likely be a new source of power for them.

Mar 19, 2014 5:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
Correction: 2nd sentence: “We received some rain this week, but rain is 70% below normal,”

We have 30%, but we’re short 70%.

Mar 19, 2014 6:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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