Living with the California Drought: One Student’s Story

California Drought

No matter where you live, you have probably heard about the drought in California. The last four years have been simultaneously the hottest and the driest four-year period on record. For many, the California drought is just another headline. But for Jonathan Rincon, a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara from Watsonville, CA, the drought is personal.
 

Droughts happen normally, right?
The Western U.S. is prone to drought. Occasional droughts are normal in the Golden State, just as occasional flooding, hurricanes or blizzards are business as usual in other states. But what sets this drought apart is its severity.  A recent study by NASA and Columbia University found that California is drier now than it has been in the last 500 years.  

Climate change is making the drought worse.
The California drought is due in large part to a lack of rain and snow-- but the drought is being magnified by the extreme temperatures that have gripped the state for the last four years. As temperatures rise due to climate change, the warmer air evaporates moisture faster, drying out soil and vegetation more rapidly than normal. The NASA and Columbia University study warns that California and the Southwest could be at the beginning of a mega-drought that could last as long as 30 years if greenhouse gas emissions are not dramatically reduced by 2050.

And because of warmer temperatures, when precipitation does come, it tends to fall in the form of rain, rather than snow. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains acts as a natural reservoir, providing drinking water and irrigation for much of California as it melts throughout the year. Last spring, when snowpack should have been at its peak, the annual state snow survey found plenty of bare ground in the mountains with average snowpack at only 5% of normal.

Young people are taking action.
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  • Empower over 500,000 young people to take meaningful actions in support of climate and energy solutions

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Josh Walker

Josh Walker is a Senior Marketing Manager at ACE. He manages the ACE blog and youth online engagement. Josh has experience as an environmental educator and community organizer. He is a locavore and tiny house enthusiast. He lives in Portland, OR with his wife, Anna, and their kale-loving dog, Otto.