Climate Change California, Our Water and Forests

by klparry

Hello friends. This articles continues my investigation into Climate Change, not only to educate myself but to help educate others to its causes and how it impacts our lives, and what we as individuals can do to help lessen its effects. It’s not a matter of politics. It is a matter of fact.

First let’s look at how Climate is different from the Weather?

Climate is the average weather for a region of the country over a long time period which includes weather events such as heavy snowfall and tornadoes. For instance, San Diego is known to have a mild climate, New Orleans a humid climate, Buffalo N.Y. has a snowy climate, and Seattle a rainy climate.

Weather can change from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. It may rain for 20 minutes and then become sunny. Weather includes wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness, sunshine and precipitation.

“A simple way of remembering the difference is that ‘climate’ is what you expect (cool, wet winters) and ‘weather’ is what you get (a foggy morning with afternoon sunshine),” as defined by the Department of Ecology State of Washington.

Here in California, Climate Change is already affecting the state’s water supplies, farm industry, forests, wildlife and public health, according to 51 scientists from the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies and institutions.

Here’s how.

Much of California’s freshwater supply comes from the Sierra Nevada snowpack. With temperatures warming and more of that precipitation in the Sierra’s coming as rain instead of snow, with no way to capture quickly, and increased water demands due to drought and population growth, we have become more reliant on natural underground water sources known as aquifers, which are being shown to contain high levels of Uranium known to cause serious health risks including cancer.

Uranium contaminated water supplies in Central California cities such as Modesto have recently made headline news where some public schools have spent 56,000 + to install uranium filtration systems. “The uranium gleaned from local water systems is handled like the nuclear material it is – taken away by workers in masks, gloves and other protective garments.”

Though California’s drought has not been linked to Climate Change you can be sure the recent severity of wild fires have, along with the decimating effect Bark Beetles are having on our North American forests.

“(Bark)Beetle outbreaks and wildfire are both influenced by climate, and warming projections imply increasing forest disturbances in the coming decades.” This a direct quote from the report “Forest Ecology and Management 271 (2012)” written by J.A. Hicke of the Department of Geography and University of Idaho and Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center, USDA Forest Service, Prineville, OR.

Since the 1990s, the mountain pine beetle has devastated more than 4 million acres of forest in Colorado and Wyoming and more than 44 million acres in British Columbia. The outbreak is the worst ever recorded and has been linked to climate change which is credited with extending the warm season in western North America. The increase in warm days has enabled the bark beetle to produce two broods each year, rather than the traditional single brood, amplifying exponentially their ability to spread out and infect otherwise healthy trees.

“The current Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic is the largest in history, extending from the Yukon Territory, Canada, to southern California and New Mexico. As of 2011, more than 13 million ha [hectares] of trees have been killed in British Columbia,” says a study written by Jeffry B. Mitton* and Scott M. Ferrenberg from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, and published 2011 in The American Society of Naturalists .

One hectare = 2.47 acres. Do the math. It’s staggering.

But that is not the worst of it. The killed trees in British Columbia alone will release 990 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. An amount equal to five times the annual emissions from all forms of transportation in the country. The reason being is that as these trees decompose they will release all the CO2 they have been storing. The extensive beetle kill is altering forest ecology and altering conifer forests from carbon scrubbing sinks to sources of carbon emissions, and adding to “Climate Change” factors.

“Although California has done more than nearly every other state to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, if it were a country, it would still rank as the 13th largest source of greenhouse gases in the world, ahead of France, Brazil, Australia and Saudi Arabia,” says a report from the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Unfortunately, it seems, most Americans view the impact of Climate Change like many a smoker views the impact of cigarette smoking. They don’t want to think about the long-term effects until something serious develops. Well, something serious has developed for those living in Central California and the mountain regions, and others across the globe. We are past the time for poo-pooing the seriousness of Climate Change.

~ K. L. Parry